President and Prime Minister of Mali Resign After Military Arrests

UMMATIMES - The interim president and Prime Minister (PM) Mali resigned on Wednesday (26/5) local time. The resignations came after the two were arrested by the military two days earlier.

"The president and his prime minister have resigned. Negotiations are ongoing for their release and the formation of a new government," said Baba Cisse, an aide to Vice President Assimi Goita in comments sent by the military to Reuters.

Cisse said that the two leaders would be released, but not immediately because of security considerations. Their resignations coincided with a visit by a delegation of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to pressure the military to resign.

On Monday (24/5), President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were taken to a military base outside the capital in the second military coup. Earlier, the president and PM carried out a Cabinet reshuffle that marked two officers losing their posts.

The intervention led by Vice President Assimi Goita has jeopardized Mali's transition back to democracy after a coup in August ousted former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The UN Security Council has issued international condemnation amid fears that the political crisis in Bamako will affect regional security.

Goita, a colonel, also orchestrated last year's coup. He promised that the elections planned for next year would take place. Goita has defended his actions. According to him, the president and prime minister had violated the transitional charter by not consulting with him about the new Cabinet. He also accused the government of mishandling social tensions in Mali, including strikes by the main unions.

The UN Security Council met privately on Wednesday in Mali. In a statement, the Security Council called for the safe, immediate and unconditional release of all detained officials.

"A change in transitional leadership by force, including through forced resignation, is unacceptable," stressed the 15-member UN Security Council.

France, the European Union and the United States (US) have threatened to impose sanctions. French President Emmanuel Macron called the political crisis in Mali a "coup within a coup".

On Wednesday, the US State Department suspended assistance to Malian security and defense forces. The US is calling for the release of prisoners and the resumption of a civilian-led transition.

The ECOWAS delegation, led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, has also raised the likelihood of sanctions against the officers responsible for the takeover. But it is not clear whether ECOWAS will be satisfied with a replacement president and prime minister, or whether it will insist that Ndaw and Ouane be reinstated. ECOWAS and other powers want the civilian-led transition to democracy to continue.

ECOWAS imposed sanctions, including the closure of the border in Mali after the coup in August before lifting it when the Goita junta approved a civilian-led transition for 18 months. Mali's neighbors and international powers fear the crisis could further destabilize a country that has been used by Islamic groups linked to al-Qaeda and ISIS as launching platforms for attacks across the region.