Military claim to have kidnapped Mali's president and prime minister

One of the uniformed rioters in Kati's barracks has assured journalists that the country's two highest authorities are under his control
 The Prime Minister of Mali, Boubou Cissé, à gauche, and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

AFP/LUDOVICO MARIN & SIA KAMBOU  -   The Prime Minister of Mali, Boubou Cissé, à gauche, and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

A group of military personnel is leading an uprising that is keeping Mali's heart in a fist. The press agencies reported this Tuesday morning that several uniformed personnel have taken up positions in strategic points in Bamako after taking up arms at the Sundiata Keita base in the city of Kati. It is not known for sure how much force these military men have and all the agencies refer to the confusion of the situation. However, one of Kati's mutineers has assured journalists that both President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and his Prime Minister, Boubou Cissé, are under his control, without specifying any further information. 

The rebels have taken up strategic positions in the capital such as the defence ministry, the armed forces headquarters and the public television station. The Government has not made any statement all morning, which has given rise to great uncertainty for the population. Hours later, Cissé issued a statement calling on the military to lay down their arms and calling on them to engage in dialogue. The truth is that the president and the prime minister were absent during the long hours of what looked like a mutiny and then turned into a coup d'état. Even the statement supposedly signed by Cissé this very afternoon, which called for dialogue with the coup plotters, was questioned by observers and attributed to people around him who were trying to hide the seriousness of the situation.

The news of the apparent triumph of the military coup has spread throughout the capital throughout the day. The avenues of Bamako have seen military vehicles circulate where thousands of people have taken to the streets in a festive mood, celebrating what has happened, which has apparently taken place without bloodshed. 
The Economic Community of African States has been quick to condemn the military action. France, too, rejected the riot on Tuesday and called for respect for the constitutional order. This European country has a strong presence in Mali. More than 5,000 Welsh soldiers are deployed in the Sahel with the aim of fighting regional Islamism. Spain also maintains troops on the ground and the Ministry of Defence has confirmed in a tweet that the Spanish contingent is safe despite the situation. The Spanish Embassy for Mali and Burkina Faso has asked Spanish residents in Bamako and Kati to avoid leaving their homes in the coming hours. 

AFP/MALIK KONATE - A group of soldiers arrives on the Place de l'Indépendance of Bamako on 18 August 2020

The African Union has also condemned Mali's coup attempt and demanded the immediate release of the Malian president and prime minister, according to the Efe news agency. The President of the Commission of the African Union (AU), Moussa Faki Mahamat, has "strongly" condemned the coup d'état in Mali and has demanded the "immediate release" of the Malian President, Ibrahim Bubacar Keita, and other members of the government. "I strongly condemn any attempt at unconstitutional change and call on the mutineers to cease all use of violence and respect for republican institutions," Moussa Faki Mahamat said on his Twitter account. 

Mali has been in the throes of enormous political instability for months, fuelled by the jihadist threat and intra-community conflicts. This incident follows weeks of protests and mass demonstrations demanding the resignation of the president, who has been in office since 2013. The President of the European Council, Charles Michel, has also warned this Tuesday that a coup d'état "is never the solution to a crisis", following the uprising in Mali. "The European Union is closely following what is happening in Mali. A coup d'état is never the solution to a crisis, however deep it may be," Mr Michel wrote on his Twitter account.

The European Union's High Representative for Foreign Policy Josep Borrell also condemned the coup d'état and rejected "any unconstitutional change", calling for dialogue and for the prevention of further destabilisation of Mali and the region. "This can in no way be the answer to the deep socio-political crisis that has plagued Mali for several months", said Borrell, who went on to say that the EU "has undertaken contacts to better understand the situation and to decide the next steps in the action of the international community".