By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Malian President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced his resignation hours after he and Prime Minister, Boubou Cisse were detained by mutinous soldiers.
Both Mali's 75-year-old President and Prime Minister were seized on Tuesday in the capital city, Bamako. This followed months of massive protests calling for Keita to step down three years before the end of this second term as president.
Keita announced his resignation on Tuesday night via national broadcaster ORTM, explaining he had little choice but to stand down to avoid bloodshed. He also dissolved the country’s national assembly and government.
“For seven years, I have with great joy and happiness tried to put this country on its feet,” Keita said. “If today some people from the armed forces have decided to end it by their intervention, do I have a choice? I should submit to it because I do not want any blood to be shed.”
Following his announcement, the UN security council scheduled a closed meeting for Wednesday to discuss the unfolding situation in the West African country.
Mali has been mired in political troubles in recent months as President Boubacar Keita has come under increased pressure from the opposition Rassemblement des forces patriotiques (M5 RFP) to resign.
Keita became president in 2013 and was re-elected in 2018. However, his second term has been overshadowed with allegations of corruption, incompetence and mismanagement of the economy.
Recent protests were sparked by a controversial ruling of the country’s Constitutional Court to overturn the results of 31 parliamentary elections which took place in March, in favor of President Keita’s party. Since protests began in June, at least 14 people have been killed according to the United Nations.
Pressure from protesters moved Keita to announce a reshuffle of the country’s Constitutional Court last month.
In July, opposition party M5 RFP rejected a proposal by a delegation from the Economic Community of West-African States (ECOWAS) calling for the resignation of the 31 disputed members of parliament, and for fresh parliamentary elections to be held. ECOWAS also called for the creation of a unity government that would include members of the opposition insisting that Keita not be forced to resign.
Religious leaders also have been vocal in their appeals for peace in the nation. Following the increasingly violent protests last month, the Archbishop of Bamako, Cardinal Jean Zerbo, the president of the Islamic High Council, Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara and the president of the Association of Evangelical Protestant Church Groups and Mission in Mali (AGEMPEM), Reverend Nouh Ag InfaYattara called for calm and reconciliation among the citizens.
Cardinal Zerbo, in his appeal to the nation, said the nation did not deserve what was happening to it and mourned the deaths of the people killed during the protests.
AU, EU, UN react
World and regional leaders have also condemned the forced resignation of Keita.
A statement by UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, noted that UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the “immediate restoration of constitutional order and the rule of law in Mali.” He also called for the immediate and unconditional release of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and members of his cabinet.
The European Union also condemned the insurrection. In a statement on Tuesday, the block said that it “strongly condemns the coup attempt underway in Mali and rejects any unconstitutional changes. This can in no way be a response to the deep socio-political crisis that has bit Mali for several months.”
Also, Chairman of the African Union Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat issued a statement calling for the release of Keita, the Prime Minister, and other members of the government. He also “strongly rejects any attempt at the unconstitutional change of government in Mali and calls on the mutineers to cease all recourse to violence.”