(CNN) — Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced his immediate resignation on state television Tuesday night, hours after he and the prime minister were reportedly arrested by mutinous soldiers in a suspected coup.
Tuesday’s events drew international condemnation and are likely to further destabilize the West African nation, following months of mass anti-government protests and a growing insurgency by Islamist militants.
Wearing a blue surgical mask due to the coronavirus pandemic, the president told national broadcaster ORTM that he had no choice but to step aside to avoid bloodshed and that the country’s national assembly and government would now be dissolved.
“For seven years I have tried with great joy and happiness to get this country back on its feet,” Keita said. “If today some people from the Armed Forces have decided to end this with their intervention, do I have another option? I must submit because I do not want blood to be spilled.”
On Wednesday morning, the military leaders behind the alleged coup – a group that identified itself as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) – addressed the nation promising a political transition, elections within a “reasonable time” and a national curfew.
Colonel Major Ismael Wague, spokesman for the CNSP, announced that as of Wednesday all air and land borders would be closed “until further notice” and that a nationwide curfew would be imposed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. local time. .
“Civil society and socio-political movements are invited to join us to, together, create the best conditions for a civil political transition that leads to credible regional elections for the exercise of democracy, through a roadmap that will set the foundations of a new Mali,” Wague said.
The military leader listed multiple complaints against Keita’s leadership, including accusations of corruption and the lack of agreements with the extremist insurgency.
Wague said that the CNSP “is not interested in power, but rather we are interested in the stability of the country, which will allow us to organize general elections within a reasonable period of time to allow Mali to equip itself with solid institutions capable of managing as well as possible our daily life possible and restore trust between governments and governed”.
Troops arrested the president and prime minister Boubou Cisse in a suspected coup early Tuesday, according to the chairman of the African Union Commission.
This followed reports of an attempted mutiny that morning at a military camp 15 kilometers outside the capital Bamako, confirmed to CNN by a diplomatic source who had been notified by local officials. The source spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not authorized to speak on the matter.
The source said that the attempted mutiny took place in Kati, in the same camp where a successful military coup was launched in 2012.
Earlier in the day, Cisse had posted a plea to the troops on Facebook, asking the military to lay down their weapons and engage in dialogue.
“The government calls for reason and patriotic sense and asks that the use of weapons cease. There are no problems that are not resolved through dialogue,” the prime minister wrote, in a statement that appears to have been published before his denounced detention.
Moussa Faki Mahamat of the African Union Commission condemned the news of the arrests, in a tweet published on Tuesday.
“I strongly condemn the arrest of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the Prime Minister and other members of the Malian government and call for their immediate release,” Mahamat wrote.
He added that he asked “the rioters to cease all use of violence” and called on the international community to oppose any use of force.
The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss the situation, two UN diplomatic sources told CNN.
The UN talks were requested by France and Niger, according to diplomatic sources. The sources spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss the matter.
Riots in Bamako
Crowds took to the streets in Bamako throughout Tuesday, surrounding the independence monument in the capital. In footage from around the city, protesters on motorbikes could be seen cheering news of the suspected coup, while some opposition supporters celebrated with national flags and trumpets.
Elsewhere, more than a thousand people gathered outside the president’s house, though soldiers prevented them from entering. However, protesters entered and ransacked the empty house of Keita’s son Karim, which is located nearby. Karim Keita resigned in July from his post as head of parliament’s defense committee amid a spike in violence and calls for his father’s resignation.
A building owned by the Malian Ministry of Justice was also looted and set on fire.
President Keita, 75, has faced mounting public discontent since May after the country’s top constitutional court annulled the results of disputed parliamentary elections, paving the way for Keita’s party to take a majority of seats. vacancies.
Disputes over the polls also sparked post-election violence in several districts of the capital and other towns in March.
Discontent has also been fueled by economic troubles and young people are fed up with rising unemployment. Mali has a young population: About half of the country’s 19 million people are under the age of 18, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). And 42.7% of the country lives in extreme poverty, according to the World Bank.
Mali previously faced a major rebellion in 2012, after a coup by mid-ranking army officers opened an opportunity for jihadist and rebel groups from the long-marginalized Tuareg ethnic minority to seize a significant part of the country.
Mali shares borders with Algeria, Niger and Mauritania and all four countries have struggled with the growing presence of Islamist groups in the region.
The European Union on Tuesday condemned the apparent “coup attempt” underway in Mali.
“The European Union condemns the ongoing coup attempt in Mali and rejects any unconstitutional change,” EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell said in a statement.
“This can in no way be a response to the deep socio-political crisis that has hit Mali for several months,” he said.
The French and US embassies in Mali on Tuesday warned citizens to stay home amid the violence.
“The US embassy is aware of the shooting and rioting in the Kati area, as well as ongoing police/military operations in Bamako,” the US embassy said in a statement.
“There have been multiple reports of gunshots throughout the city, as well as reports of soldiers driving in trucks and firing their weapons into the air. There are continuing reports of protesters gathering at the Monument de L’Independance. The United States encourages all American citizens avoid these areas, if possible.”
And the US Africa Command said it was aware of the alleged coup. The United States has a limited number of personnel in Mali, who primarily conduct counterterrorism activities with local and international partners.
“We are aware of the events in Mali. All US service members are accounted for. We will continue to monitor this situation,” the US Africa Command said in a statement on Tuesday.
Reporting contributed by David McKenzie and Brent Swails in Johannesburg, Caitlin Hu and Richard Roth in New York, Eva Tapiero and Pierre Bairin in Paris, Lauren Kent in Winston-Salem, and Tatiana Arias in Atlanta.