June 24, 2021

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Mali: Ousted president, PM freed from military detention

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Interim leaders were detained on Monday hours after two army officers lost posts in a cabinet reshuffle.

Mali’s military has released former interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, three days after detaining them and stripping them of their powers.

The detention of the pair on Monday took place hours after a cabinet reshuffle in which two army officers lost their posts, the latest political crisis to hit the country nine months after the military overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

An aide to interim Vice President Assimi Goita, who led the August 2020 coup, said on Wednesday that Ndaw and Ouane had resigned.

“The interim president and prime minister were released overnight around 1:30am (01:30 GMT),” a military official told AFP news agency on Thursday. “We were true to our word,” he added, on condition of anonymity. Family members also confirmed to news agencies that the pair had been released.

Ndaw and Ouane, along with Defence Minister Souleymane Doucoure, were being held at a military base in Kati, outside Bamako. It was not immediately clear if Doucore had also been released.

Widely condemned as a coup, the detention of the senior interim leaders triggered a chorus of condemnation by regional and international powers. The UN Security Council on Wednesday called for the “safe, immediate and unconditional release” of all officials detained in Mali by elements of the defence and security forces.

Ndaw, a former soldier, and Ouane were sworn in September last year after the coup-makers – faced with the threat of regional sanctions – agreed to hand over power to a transitional government.

The caretaker administration was tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule. Two others who were instrumental in the coup – Sadio Camara and Colonel Modibo Kone – were given the defence and security portfolios, respectively.

Camara and Kone were replaced in Monday’s cabinet reshuffle, although the military held onto other strategic portfolios it previously controlled.

No reason was given for Camara and Kone’s exclusion, but the cabinet shake-up came in the face of growing criticism of the interim government, with civil society groups questioning whether the military-dominated government has the will, or the ability to push through reforms and hold elections next year.

On Tuesday, Goita said Ndaw and Ouane had violated the transitional charter by failing to consult him about the new cabinet and promised that elections planned for next year at the end of the transitional period would go ahead.

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