Monday, August 24, 2020

West Africa Leaders Soften Stance on Return of Mali Leader

By Baudelaire Mieu and Katarina Hoije

August 24, 2020, 11:56 AM EDT

Malian military leaders and an ECOWAS delegation headed by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan meet in Bamako, Mali, on Aug. 22.

West African leaders may no longer push for Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to be restored to office after holding a first phase of talks with the military junta that has taken control of the country, an official said.

The softened stance comes after envoys from the Economic Community of West African States continued talks with junta leaders about the return to a civilian administration. The regional bloc had initially called for Keita to be reinstated but considers dropping that demand, said the official, who asked not to be identified because he isn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

The junta wants political parties, civil society, religious groups and the army to decide on the structure of any transitional government, spokesman Ismael Wague told closely held Horon TV in the capital, Bamako, on Monday.

“We won’t decide anything,” Wague said, denying earlier reports that the junta plans to head the transition. “It is the Malians together who will decide.”

Keita, 75, dissolved his government and resigned Tuesday under pressure from soldiers who detained him hours after they staged a mutiny at an army barracks on the outskirts of Bamako. Previous mediation efforts by Ecowas failed to resolve the impasse between Keita’s government and a popular protest movement that had demanded he step down before he was eventually seized.

The bloc placed its forces on standby last week as it sealed off Mali’s borders and suspended all trade. Keita along with the top members of his cabinet is still being detained by the junta.


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