Soldiers in Mali have detained the president and prime minister of the interim government, according to the United Nations and the African Union, deepening political chaos in the country just nine months after a military coup overthrew its previous leader.
The detention of President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on Monday came hours after a government reshuffle left out two soldiers who led the coup in August last year and raised fears of a second military takeover.
In a joint statement, the UN and AU called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of Mali’s civilian leadership and said “the international community rejects in advance any act of coercion, including forced resignations”.
The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS also signed the statement. A delegation from ECOWAS would visit the capital, Bamako, on Tuesday, according to the statement.
Diplomatic and government sources told Reuters and AFP news agencies that Ndaw, Ouane as well as Defence Minister Souleymane Doucore were being held at a military base in Kati, outside Bamako.
AFP managed to reach Ouane briefly, and before the line cut, he told the agency that soldiers had come to get him.