MALI’S new military junta has asked the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to allow it to govern the country for three years before holding elections and handing over to a civilian government.
Last week, what started off as a military mutiny over salary arrears, later ballooned into a coup as soldiers took over the Malian capital Bamako and arrested President Ibrahim Keita and prime minister Boubou Cisse. Following the takeover, President Keita announced his resignation on national television and both men were taken into custody at an army facility the Kati military base on the outskirts of Bamako.
President Keita said he had resigned to avoid bloodshed as jubilant crowds were already gathered in the capital to demand his resignation and cheered the rebels as they made their way to the presidential complex. His government has been beset by months of protests over economic stagnation, corruption and a brutal Islamist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives.
However, Ecowas has condemned the coup, closed all land and air borders with Mali and will now push for sanctions against the new junta. Former Nigerian president Dr Goodluck Jonathan has made repeated trips to Bamako, the Malian capital in search of a deal that will allow democracy to be returned to Mali.
In response to the pressure, it appears that the military regime is offering to release the ousted President Keita and organise elections in three years time. Under the terms of the deal the junta is offering Ecowas, Mali will go through a three-year transition during which time it would have a military president and a government mostly composed of soldiers.
An Ecowas spokesman said: “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.”
Among other things, the regime is proposing that Prime Minister Cisse, who has been held with President Keita at a military base outside the capital where the coup began, would be moved to a secure residence in the city. While the coup was met with international condemnation, thousands of opposition supporters celebrated the president’s ouster in the streets of Bamako, with the junta saying it completed the work of the protesters.
Dr Jonathan, who heads the Ecowas mission, met with President Keita on Saturday and said that he seemed very fine. President Keita won a landslide election in 2013, presenting himself as a unifying figure in a fractured country and was re-elected in 2018 for another five-year term.
However, he failed to make headway against the jihadist revolt that has left swathes of the country in the hands of armed Islamists and ignited ethnic violence in the country’s volatile centre. Ecowas Commission chief Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, expressed hope over the weekend that it would be possible to finalise everything today.