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Mali’s President Resigns After Protests Spark Soldiers’ Revolt

Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned after being detained by a military junta that pledged to shepherd a democratic transition.

The coup capped weeks of protests demanding that he step down. Keita, 75, has faced opposition criticism for alleged corruption and nepotism within his administration, and the mishandling of an escalating Islamist insurgency in the West African nation.

Keita appeared on national television to announce that he was dissolving his cabinet and parliament, and complying with soldiers’ demands that he quit. “I don’t want a single drop of blood to be shed to keep me in office,” he said.

Hours later, Colonel-Major Ismael Wague appeared on television to announce that the Comite National pour le Salut du Peuple, or National Committee for the Salvation of the People, has taken charge of the country. He appealed to civil society and political groups to help prepare for elections, without providing a timeline for when a vote will be held.

Mali Soldiers“The fight against corruption and good governance remain at the heart of what we seek,” Wague said. “To prevent the country from sliding into chaos, we will be responsible for the provision of social services.”

The Economic Community of West African States condemned the coup and called for the regional bloc’s forces to be on standby. It also sealed off the nation’s borders and suspended all trade.

French President Emmanuel Macron held talks about the crisis with his Nigerian, Ivorian and Senegalese counterparts and said he supported mediation by Ecowas. The regional bloc has intervened militarily in the past, sending troops to Gambia in 2017 to help end a political crisis in that country.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also condemned Keita’s overthrow, while African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat said the continental body opposed the use of force to resolve the country’s political crisis.

Shares in Mali-exposed gold miners fell overnight: B2Gold Corp. dropped 7.5% and Iamgold Corp. fell 2.1%. Mali is sub-Saharan Africa’s third-biggest producer of the metal, with companies including Barrick Gold Corp. and AngloGold Ashanti Ltd. also operating there.

Mali protests against presidentThe situation in Mali is reminiscent of the 2012 ouster of Keita’s predecessor, Amadou Toumani Toure, by junior officers angry about the lack of resources needed to fight Tuareg rebels in the north. The subsequent power vacuum was exploited by al-Qaeda-linked Islamist groups who seized control of the north. A French military intervention pushed back the insurgents, but some groups later returned and expanded to carry out attacks on civilians and about 15,000 UN peacekeepers in the country.

“The international community will be perturbed by the mutiny,” Alexandre Raymakers, senior Africa analyst at Verisk Maplecroft, said in a research note. “France will fear it will worsen the ongoing political crisis, creating a major political vacuum and derail efforts to contain the growing insurgency,” he said before Keita was seized by the soldiers.

Wague asked regional and international partners, including foreign military missions, to cooperate with the committee, saying all agreements would be respected.

The government’s inability to quash the Islamist insurgencies, which have claimed thousands of lives, fueled many of the protests against Keita. The leader assumed office on a wave of optimism after 2013 elections, but critics said he didn’t fulfill any of his campaign pledges after his 2018 re-election.

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