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US condemns detention of civilian leaders in Mali

US condemns detention of civilian leaders in Mali
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The State Department Wednesday condemned the detention of Mali’s transitional president and prime minister by the military this week, which marked the second coup in the country in under a year.

“The United States strongly condemns the detention of civilian leaders of Mali’s transition government,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price, who added that “we are working closely with the local transition monitoring committee and other international actors to seek the immediate and unconditional release of those detained and resumption of the civilian-led transition.”

“A democratic, civilian-led government presents the best opportunity to achieve security and prosperity in Mali and the wider Sahel region. The Malian transition government’s commitment to a civilian-led transition and democratic elections in 2022 set the stage for Mali’s continued engagement with international partners to advance democracy, human rights, peace, and security efforts. The events of May 24 put that progress at risk.”

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The condemnation comes after Malian President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were detained at military headquarters Monday in the garrison town of Kati, located in a stronghold of the country’s junta. 

The military has thus far not made a statement about the detentions but state broadcasters have circulated news of new government members.

The arrests of the two leaders came immediately after the announcement of new Cabinet ministers. Among the names left off the list were Interior Security Minister Modibo Kone and Defense Minister Sadio Camara, both junta supporters, hinting at a rift between Mali’s transitional government and the military.

N’Daw and Ouane have been in power since September after the junta agreed to give power to a civilian transitional government. The military had grabbed power in August after troops surrounded the home of then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who later resigned on national television.

The African Union, the United Nations mission in Mali, the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS and other world powers have all called on the military to release N’Daw and Ouane.

“They strongly condemn the attempted coup that occurred following the publication of the decree appointing members of the government by the President of the transition on the proposal of the Prime Minister,” they said in a statement released by the U.N. mission. “They demand the immediate and unconditional release of these authorities and stress that the military elements detaining them will be held personally responsible for their security.”