Mali: Nigeria calls for immediate release of interim president, prime minister - AFRICAN PARLIAMENTARY NEWS



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Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Mali: Nigeria calls for immediate release of interim president, prime minister

Nigeria’s Government on Tuesday called for the immediate release of Mali’s interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane.

This was contained in a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Ferdinand Nwoye which described the action as totally unacceptable..

 “The Federal Government of Nigeria, therefore, calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the President and Prime Minister,”

“The key actors of the condemnable act should be aware of the fact that stakeholders in the region and friends of Mali reject any act of coercion of the detained officials, including forced resignations.”

Ndaw and Ouane lead an interim government that was installed under the threat of regional sanctions following a military coup in August 2020.

Malian officers upset with a sensitive government reshuffle on Monday abducted and detained the president and prime minister at Kati Military Camp, near the country’s capital, Bamako.

Newsmen report that the reshuffle was designed to respond to growing criticism of the interim government.

The military action has also raised fears of a second coup in the country.

Ndaw and Ouane detention has triggered broad international condemnation and demands for their immediate release.

According to Nwoye, the military action might derail the peace building efforts and timetable for the return of democratic governance in Mali.

The detention of the president and prime minister followed a sensitive government reshuffle earlier on Monday that was designed to respond to growing criticism of the interim government.

The military kept the strategic portfolios it controlled during the previous administration in the reshuffle.

But two coup leaders – ex-defence minister Sadio Camara and ex-security minister Colonel Modibo Kone – were replaced.

Coup leaders and army officers have wielded significant influence over the government, casting doubts on a pledge to hold elections by early next year.

The reshuffle came at a time of growing political challenges in the capital Bamako and pressure to stick to the deadline for promised reforms.

Speculation of a coup swirled around Bamako late on Monday, but the city has reportedly remained relatively calm.

Briefly reached by phone before the line cut out, Prime Minister Ouane told AFP that soldiers “came to get” him.

EU leaders condemned what they called the “kidnapping” of Mali’s civilian leadership, said council president Charles Michel.

“What happened was grave and serious and we are ready to consider necessary measures,” he told reporters after a summit of the bloc’s 27 leaders, describing events as “the kidnapping of the president and the prime minister”.

Earlier, a joint statement by the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the European Union (EU) and the United States condemned the arrests and called for their “immediate and unconditional liberty”.

Later, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres tweeted a call for calm, and urged the “unconditional release” of the leaders.

It would be recalled that young military officers ousted Keita on 18 August, after weeks of protests over perceived government corruption and his handling of Mali’s jihadist insurgency.

After the 15-nation West Africa bloc ECOWAS threatened sanctions, the military junta handed power to a caretaker government that pledged to reform the constitution and stage elections within 18 months.

Coup leader Assimi Goita was appointed as vice president of the caretaker administration, and the interim president, Bah Ndaw, is a retired army officer.

Many have doubted whether the military-dominated government has the will, or the ability, to stage reforms on a short timescale.

Among other problems, the vast nation faces a major logistical and security challenge, as swathes of territory are in the hands of jihadists.

Doubts remained despite the interim government’s last month pledging to hold a constitutional referendum on 31 October, with elections to follow in February next year.

On 14 May, amid growing anger, the government then said it would appoint a new “broad-based” cabinet.

An official at Mali’s interim presidency, who requested anonymity, said the reshuffle was designed to send a message that “respect for the transition deadline remains the priority”.

He also underscored the necessity of replacing the defence and security ministers.

“They are not emblematic figures of the junta,” the official said, referring to the newly appointed ministers.


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