Mali’s interim President Bah N’Daw, and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, have reportedly been detained by soldiers following a cabinet reshuffle on Monday.
The country’s defence minister, Souleymane Doucoure, was also said to have been arrested.
N’Daw, Ouane, and Doucoure were reportedly taken to the Kati military base outside Bamako, the country’s capital, on Monday.
The detention is said to have taken place after the announcement of a change in government earlier on Monday.
The interim government had, on May 14, pledged to appoint a new “broad-based” cabinet — amid criticism of the army’s hold over key government positions and the failure to hasten promised reforms.
N’Daw, who was Mali’s former defence minister, was named president of the country’s new transitional government last September after a military junta ousted President Ibrahim Keita from office.
The arrests come just hours after two members of the military junta lost their positions in a cabinet reshuffle.
N’Daw and Assimi Goita, leader of the military junta, were appointed to oversee an 18-month transition after which national elections will be conducted.
The military junta had come under pressure from leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to return power to civilians following the August 18, 2020 coup.
ECOWAS had also imposed sanctions on Mali after the coup.
During negotiations, the junta had asked to stay in power for three years but ECOWAS said it would only allow an interim government, headed by a civilian or retired military officer, to last for six months or a maximum of a year.
ECOWAS had called for the appointment of a civilian president and prime minister for a transitional period by September 23, threatening to impose a full embargo on Mali.
The military later handed power to a caretaker government that pledged to reform the constitution and conduct elections within 18 months.
Reacting to the development, the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), called for the release of the detained president and the prime minister.
“We are closely monitoring events and remain committed to supporting the Transition. We call for calm and demand the immediate and unconditional release of the President and the Prime Minister. Those who hold them will have to answer for their actions,” MINUSMA said.
“They must ensure the integrity of those detained. We are in close contact with ECOWAS and the AU within the framework of the local transition monitoring committee, as well as with other international actors engaged in support of the ongoing transition. We support these efforts.”