Thousands of Malians in Mali Rejoice Over President Ibrahim Keita Downfall
Thousands marched Friday in the streets of Mali’s capital to celebrate the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, They rallied three days after mutinying troops seized the country’s unpopular 75-year-old president, forced him to announce his resignation and unveiled a junta that would rule until a “transitional president” takes over. as the West African nation’s political opposition backed the military’s junta plan to eventually hand over power to a civilian transitional government.
But as opponents of the former regime moved ahead with plans for the future, the international community continued to express alarm about the coup that deposed Mali’s democratically elected leader this week. There are concerns that the political upheaval will divert attention away from the more than seven-year international fight against Islamic extremists who have used previous power vacuums in Mali to expand their terrain.
Soldiers from the junta calling itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People made a brief appearance Friday at Bamako’s Independence Square, where they thanked the crowd of thousands for their support. “We have come to complete your work. This is your struggle,” Col. Major Ismaël Wagué told the demonstrators, before introducing two more officials in the junta’s leadership — a first vice president and a third vice president.
in contrast to fierce condemnation abroad at the overthrow of an elected leader, many in the square were jubilant and shouted their approval when the junta came to pay tribute for the public’s part in the drama.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union, the European Union, and some other world leaders have condemned the coup, calling for the release of Keita and the detainees.
A delegation, led by ex-President Goodluck Jonathan from ECOWAS, is said to be expected to arrive soon in Bamako with the plans “to negotiate the immediate release of the president and also ensure the restoration of constitutional government.”.
“We have come here to thank you, to thank the Malian public for its support,” the junta’s spokesman, Ismael Wague, told the crowd.
“We merely completed the work that you began and we recognize ourselves in your fight.”
Keita’s downfall came after months of protests, staged by a loose coalition called the June 5 Movement, that was fuelled by anger at failures to stem a bloody jihadist insurgency, revive the economy and tackle corruption.
“I am overjoyed! We won. We came here to thank all the people of Mali because this is the victory of the people,” said opposition supporter Mariam Cisse, 38.
A retired soldier, Ousmane Diallo, 62, said, “We are here to celebrate the victory of the people. Just the victory of the people.”
“IBK has failed,” he said, using a common reference to the ousted president by his initials. “The people are victorious.”
But, he cautioned, “the military should not be thinking now that they can stay in power.”