EU calls for 'immediate' release of detained Mali leaders

By: AFP      Published: 07:56 PM, 19 Aug, 2020
EU calls for 'immediate' release of detained Mali leaders

EU leaders on Wednesday called for the immediate release of prisoners held after a coup in Mali, who include the country's president and prime minister.

Rebel soldiers took President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse into custody on Tuesday afternoon and drove the pair to a military base on the outskirts of Bamako, which they had seized that morning.

"We call for the immediate freeing of prisoners, and for a return to the state of law," said EU Council chief Charles Michel after a video summit of the bloc's 27 leaders.

"We believe that the stability of the region and of Mali, and the fight against terrorism should be an absolute priority," he added.

The EU has operated a mission training the armed forces in Mali since 2013 and in July announced a joint EU special ops force to back Mali's fight against jihadist groups.

Jihadist and inter-ethnic violence in Mali and neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso killed at least 4,000 people in 2019, according to the United Nations.

The entire Sahel region is seeing ever more brazen attacks by Islamist groups despite the beefing up of national armies and the deployment of 5,100 French anti-terrorism troops.

Michel said Europe would work in "close cooperation" with international and African institutions involved "so that we can c

African Union condemns 'unconstitutional change' in Mali

Chairman of the African Union and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Wednesday condemned the "unconstitutional change of government" in Mali and demanded the release of its leaders.

In his first official reaction since President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was forced out on Tuesday, Ramaphosa issued a statement demanding "the Malian military release from detention the president, the prime minister, ministers and other Government executives."

Keita said Wednesday he had stepped down to avoid "bloodshed" after he was detained in a coup, whose leaders pledged new elections.

Ramaphosa called for the "immediate return to civilian rule and for the military to return to their barracks". 

He also urged other leaders in Africa and beyond to "denounce and reject" the military-led government.

Separately, Angolan leader Joao Lourenco tweeted that despite the reasons behind Keita's ouster, "we repudiate and discourage this way of forcing the alternation of power."

"In the middle of the 21st century, Africa must follow the example of Latin America, which has successfully overcome the tragic period of successive coups d’etat of the 1970s."

"We hope that with the direct involvement of the African Union, the best ways to get out of the crisis will be found," he added.

ome to a solution that is directly linked to the aspirations of the Mali people."