MALI’S new military junta has been told by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to create an interim government headed by a civilian with a mandate to conduct fresh elections and restore democracy to the country within 12 months.
Earlier this month, what started off as a military mutiny over salary arrears, ballooned into a full blown coup as soldiers took over the 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.
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.
Mali’s military junta had asked for three years to restore democracy but this offer has been rejected by Ecowas by the Jonathan-led Ecowas team. Dr Jonathan visited Aso Rock over the last few days to update President Muhammadu Buhari and the Nigerian government on the details of the deal his team struck in Mali.
Dr Jonathan said: “They call themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People. We asked them to allow ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to return to his personal residence, where he would be given tight security but they said he could travel abroad and not return to answer questions they may have for him.
“We also told them that what would be acceptable to Ecowas was an interim government, headed by a civilian or retired military officer, to last for six or nine months and maximum of 12 calendar months. The interim government would then organise elections to restore full constitutional order.”
He told President Buhari that his team was allowed to meet with the ousted president, whom he said confirmed that he resigned voluntarily and he was no longer interested in returning to power. Dr Jonathan added that the military leaders urged Ecowas to lift sanctions imposed on Mali because it was already affecting the country.
In his remarks, President Buhari stated that the priority in Mali now should be to secure the country, which he said had largely been occupied by terrorists. He added that the Ecowas sub-region would take a common position on the issue when the leaders meet tomorrow, hoping that an amicable and a generally acceptable position to all interested parties would be arrived at.
President Buhari said: “About two-thirds of Mali is occupied by terrorists and it makes common sense to secure the country, rather than pursuing individual interests.”