Mali junta wants military rule for three years, agrees to free president

The junta that seized power in Mali wants a military-led transitional body to rule for three years, and has accepted that ousted president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita return home, sources in a visiting West African delegation said Sunday.

“The junta has affirmed that it wants a three-year transition to review the foundations of the Malian state. This transition will be directed by a body led by a soldier, who will also be head of state,” a source in the ECOWAS delegation in capital Bamako told AFP.

Colonel Ismael Wague, the junta's spokesman walks out after the meeting with ECOWAS mediators in Bamako, Mali August 23, 2020.
Colonel Ismael Wague, the junta’s spokesman walks out after the meeting with ECOWAS mediators in Bamako, Mali August 23, 2020. © REUTERS/Mamadou Keita

“The government will also be predominantly composed of soldiers” under the junta’s proposal, the source said on condition of anonymity.

The source added that the junta has agreed to “free president Keita“, who has been detained along with other political leaders since the coup on Tuesday, and he “will be able to return to his home” in Bamako.

“And if he wants to travel abroad for treatment, that is not a problem,” the ECOWAS source said.

Prime minister Boubou Cisse, who has been detained with Keita at a military base outside the capital where the coup began, would be moved to a secure residence in the city, the source said.

A junta official confirmed to AFP the decisions on the fate of Keita and Cisse, as well as that “the three-year transition would have a military president and a government mostly composed of soldiers”.

The coup followed months of protests calling for Keita to resign as public discontent with the government grew over the country’s brutal Islamist insurgency and collapsing economy.

While it was met by international condemnation, thousands of opposition supporters celebrated the president’s ouster in the streets of Bamako.

The junta has said it “completed the work” of the protesters and has vowed to stage elections “within a reasonable time”.

However Mali’s neighbours have called for Keita to be reinstated, saying the purpose of the visit by the delegation from the regional ECOWAS bloc was to help “ensure the immediate return of constitutional order”.

Leaders of the military junta led by Colonel Assimi Goita and mediators from West Africa’s regional bloc led by Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan, met behind closed doors all day on Sunday.

“We have been able to agree on a number of points but not yet on all the discussions,” Jonathan told reporters on Sunday night after negotiations that lasted around nine hours.

A spokesman for the military junta, Colonel Ismael Wague, said: “We reached compromise on certain aspects and the negotiations will continue tomorrow.”

The overthrow of Keita on Tuesday has been condemned abroad, but celebrated by many in a country battling an Islamist insurgency and months of political unrest following a disputed legislative election in March.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), weary of prolonged instability in Mali and the potential for similar power grabs in the region, have taken a hard line on the coup.

It suspended Mali from its decision-making institutions, shut borders and halted financial flows with the country.

(FRANCE 24, REUTERS and AFP)

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