Mali’s president on Wednesday said he had resigned to avoid “bloodshed” after his detainment in a military coup, whose leaders promised new elections to sort a spiraling political crisis in the delicate West African nation.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s government had undergone months of protests over corruption, economic stagnation and a brutal Islamist insurgency which has claimed thousands of lives.
Rebel soldiers took Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse into custody on Tuesday afternoon and drove the two to a military base on the outskirts of Bamako, which they had seized that morning.
Jubilant crowds that had already gathered in the capital to demand Keita’s resignation cheered the rebels as they drove to the 75-year-old’s official residence.
Keita seemed calm as he appeared in a state television broadcast soon after midnight to declare the dissolution of the government and national assembly, and said he had no choice but to resign with immediate effect.
“If it pleased certain elements of our military to decide this should end with their intervention, do I really have a choice?” he said of the day’s events.
“(I must) submit to it, because I don’t want any bloodshed.”
It was unclear whether Keita was still in custody at the Kati base, which in a twist of fate was the site of the 2012 putsch that brought him to power.
The coup’s leaders appeared on television hours later to promise a political transition and new elections within a “reasonable time”.
Malian Air Force deputy chief of staff Ismael Wague said he and his fellow officers had “decided to take responsibility in front of the people and of history”.
The Economic Community of West African States has condemned the coup in a statement, pledging to restrict land and air borders to Mali and push for sanctions against “all the putschists and their partners and collaborators”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres demanded the “immediate and unconditional release” of Keita and Cisse as diplomats in New York claimed the Security Council would hold emergency talks on Wednesday.
The United States and France have also released separate statements condemning the mutiny.