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Mali coup leader fires prime minister and president

May 25, 2021

Mali coup leader Assimi Goita has fired the president and prime minister of a transitional regime installed after the government was ousted last year. Goita said the pair had acted without consulting him.

Assimi Goita, Bah N'Daw, and Moctar Ouane
Coup leader and Vice President Assimi Goita (l), former President Bah N'Daw (c), and former Prime Minister Moctar OuaneImage: Boubou Doucouré/DW

Malian interim Vice President Assimi Goita on Tuesday announced the firing of President Bah N'Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane.

The pair were arrested a day earlier, after a cabinet reshuffle in which two of Goita's fellow coup leaders were dropped from the government.

The detentions were widely condemned by the international community.

France leads criticism of arrests

French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking after an EU summit in Brussels, said European leaders condemned in the strongest possible terms the arrest of the president of Mali and his prime minister.

Macron branded the move "unacceptable" and warned the 27-member bloc would bring in "targeted sanctions" against those responsible.

Britain also called for the immediate release of Mali's transitional leaders, describing their detention as "deeply concerning."

"The UK condemns the detention of the president, prime minister and other members of the government in Mali. We call for the immediate, safe and unconditional release of all those detained," British Minister for Africa James Duddridge said in a statement.

A spokesperson for Germany's foreign office said the arrest of the two leaders "sends a disastrous signal to the Malian people and the international community."

"We condemn the action in the strongest terms and expect N'Daw and Ouane to be released immediately," the spokesperson said.

Why were the two men fired?

Goita said he ousted the interim president and prime minister because they failed to consult with him about the nomination of the new government.

This, he said, violated the transitional charter — a document largely drawn up by the military, which set down the principles for Mali's return to civilian rule.

Goita said the pair's decisions had shown "demonstrable intent to sabotage the transition."

"This kind of step testifies to the clear desire of the transitional president and prime minister to seek to breach the transitional charter," he said.

Goita said the transition would "proceed as normally," with scheduled elections to be held in 2022.

Detained at military base

The two men had been placed in charge last September after an August military coup that ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

They were put under arrest by military officers on Monday. Defense Minister Souleymane Doucore was also detained. 

The leaders were reportedly taken to the Kati military base located near Mali's capital, Bamako.

The UN, the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) condemned the move and called for the leaders to be released. The "attempted coup" was also met with disapproval from the EU, US and UK.

What's the political situation in Mali?

In August, the Malian military ousted President Keita, forcing him to resign. The interim government led by N'Daw and Ouane was formed in September.

The administration was tasked with implementing reforms and eventually holding elections. Many of the key leaders of the interim government are affiliated with the military, and N'Daw himself has served as an army officer.

Mali has faced numerous security and humanitarian crises.

Separatist and Islamist groups have waged an armed insurgency against the government since 2012. The fighting has displaced hundreds of thousands of people, with violence having spilled over into neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger. 

Climate-related issues have disrupted the country's food supply and agricultural sector. The COVID-19 pandemic has also put additional strain on Mali's underdeveloped health care system.

rc/nm (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)