Transitional President Bah N’Daw dismisses Prime Minister Moctar Ouane before handing in his own resignation letter to transitional Vice President Col. Assimi Goita, whose representative says the detained interim leaders would be gradually released.
The UN Security Council has "strongly condemned" the Mali military's ousting and arrest of the country's interim president and vice president, and called for a return to civilian government.
In a unanimous statement on Wednesday, the council called for "the safe, immediate and unconditional release of all the officials detained and urged the defence and security forces elements to return to their barracks without delay."
Transitional president resigns
The UN Security Council warning had little effect, as Mali’s transitional president announced his resignation while he and the prime minister are held in detention after being arrested by the military earlier this week.
The resignation by the leader of an 18-month civilian transitional government risks plunging the troubled nation into further instability and comes as representatives of the West African regional bloc are in Mali to mediate the political crisis, officials said Wednesday.
The UN, the African Union and other international bodies, as well as the US, have urged Mali’s military to release the transitional leaders.
Transitional President Bah N’Daw dismissed Prime Minister Moctar Ouane Wednesday before handing in his own resignation letter to transitional Vice President Col. Assimi Goita, who led the 2020 coup, according to a military official.
A representative for Goita later said that the detained interim president and prime minister would be gradually released.
A West African diplomat who is involved in mediations also confirmed the resignation and dismissal. Both spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not permitted to speak to the press on the subject.
The conditions under which the two transitional leaders are being held are not known.
Goita likely intends to take power himself to control the transition, the diplomat said.
On Tuesday, Goita retook control of Mali, saying in a statement he had deposed the president and prime minister because they had formed a new government without consulting him.
The two were arrested Monday by the military, hours after naming a new Cabinet that did not include two major former junta leaders.
International mediation with Mali’s military, led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan of the West African regional body known as ECOWAS, began Tuesday and stretched into Wednesday at the Kati military camp outside the capital, Bamako, where the deposed leaders have been held.
The international community has condemned the detention of the transitional leaders, with French President Emmanuel Macron describing it as a coup and warning of repercussions, including targeted sanctions.
French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said Wednesday, “We were very clear with the junta: the transition must include civilians. It must be peaceful, it must be inclusive and it must be limited in time. What has happened ... constitutes for us a rupture of confidence.”
The EU has also warned that it is “ready to consider targeted measures against political and military leaders who obstruct the Malian transition.”
The United States strongly condemned the detention of the civilian leaders, with the State Department saying that it would be suspending security assistance to the Malian forces.
“The United States will also consider targeted measures against political and military leaders who impede Mali’s civilian-led transition to democratic governance,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
He said the US was working closely with the local transition monitoring committee and other international actors to achieve the immediate and unconditional release of the government leaders held.
“A democratic, civilian-led government presents the best opportunity to achieve security and prosperity in Mali and the wider Sahel region,” the statement said.
Jonathan, who arrived Tuesday night with the West African delegation, said they came to Mali to listen to different parties, including the military, civil society groups and others.
“There is cordial discussion, friendly discussion going on for the common interest of the people of Mali” Jonathan told journalists Tuesday night after meeting with members of the military and government.
Jonathan earlier acted as mediator in the political crisis last year after the junta detained former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Aug. 18, forcing him to resign. ECOWAS previously threatened the junta with sanctions if it did not install a civilian president and prime minister, and shorten the transitional period to 18 months.
When Goita released a statement Tuesday, he pledged to move forward with new elections in 2022 as previously promised. But his display of force raises fears that there could be further significant interference by the junta that overthrew the last democratically elected president.
The instability also worries the international community, as the new political unrest could further destabilize efforts to control Mali’s long-running Islamic insurgency. The UN now spends some $1.2 billion annually on a peacekeeping mission in Mali and France’s military has spent eight years trying to stabilize its former colony amid the ongoing threat.