Mali’s ousted president is released from detention by coup leaders
By Ruth Maclean and Cheick Amadou Diouara
Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Mali’s ousted president, was released from detention and driven to his home in the West African country’s capital early Thursday, nine days after a military coup brought an end to his seven years in power.
A heavy security escort took Keïta to his house in Sebeninkoro, a residential neighborhood of Bamako, capping his abrupt fall after military officers with guns arrested him, took him to their base and forced him to resign on television.
They held him in Kati, 10 miles outside Bamako, along with his prime minister, Boubou Cissé, and several other high-ranking government officials. Cissé, the minister of defense and the minister of security are still being held.
Keïta’s departure came after several months of growing and persistent protests. The coup plotters — who refer to themselves as the National Committee for the People’s Salvation — have presented themselves as having carried out the will of the people.
The coup was roundly condemned by the African Union, the United Nations, the United States and France — which has around 5,000 troops in the region. But only Ecowas, the regional organization of West African states, initially tried to insist that Keïta be reinstated, holding a video conference call attended by all the region’s presidents.
The coup leaders have met with opposition figures and protest leaders, promising to hold democratic elections and find an interim president.
In negotiations with Ecowas, the leaders of the junta initially asked for a three-year transition led by a military officer. Ecowas mediators said Wednesday that they would accept a transitional government with a civilian or retired army officer in charge for a maximum of one year, according to a statement from the Nigerian presidency.
A popular imam regarded as the protest movement’s figurehead, Mahmoud Dicko, said after the coup that he considered his fight to be over, according to a message posted on his organization’s Facebook page.
Mali has a rich cultural and historical heritage, and it was long considered among Africa’s most vibrant democracies. But when Keïta, known to most Malians as I.B.K., came to power in 2013, it was in the wake of another coup — one that originated from the same military base as the revolt on Tuesday.
Seen as an honest and efficient man at the time, he won by a landslide in that year’s election, giving hope to many Malians who had just lived through a year-and-a-half-long crisis. Rebels returning from Libya after the fall of Col. Moammar Gadhafi had taken control of towns in the country’s north, with jihadis also seizing on the chaos.
Malian and French troops eventually pushed back the extremists. But progress toward peace was halting, and despite a growing foreign military presence in Mali, attacks spread to the center of the country.
Keïta received much blame for his handling of security, but he also came to be seen as nepotistic and corrupt, and the last straw was a parliamentary election held in March, the results of which many Malians believed he manipulated.