Following a cabinet reshuffle on Monday, Mali’s interim president and prime minister have been arrested and taken to a military base outside the capital Bamako, multiple diplomatic and government sources told the Reuters and AFP news agencies.
President Bah Ndaw, Prime Minister Moctar Ouane as well as defence minister Souleymane Doucoure were all taken to the Kati military base on Monday, a senior member of the military, who declined to be named, confirmed.
PM Ouane told AFP by phone that soldiers affiliated with interim Vice President Colonel Assimi Goita – who was leader of a coup last year – “came to take me”.
The arrests followed a sensitive government reshuffle in the unstable West African nation announced on Monday afternoon.
Controversially, army figures have held key roles in Mali’s interim government, which was installed after the August coup which toppled elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
A new government of 25 ministers was announced on Monday in response to growing criticisms of the army’s overbearing influence.
The military kept the strategic portfolios it controlled during the previous administration in the reshuffle.
But two coup leaders – former defence minister Sadio Camara and former security minister Colonel Modibo Kone – were replaced.
The reshuffle came at a time of growing political contestation in Bamako, and pressure to stick to the deadline for promised reforms.
Young military officers overthrew Keita on August 18 after weeks of protests against perceived government corruption and his handling of an armed insurgency in the country’s north.
Threatened by international sanctions, the military government later handed power to a caretaker government that pledged to reform the constitution and stage elections within 18 months.
Putschists and men with military links also retained powerful roles in this interim government.
While coup leader Goita is currently serving as interim vice president, the interim president, Bah Ndaw, is a retired army officer.
The pledge to complete reforms within 18 months has spurred many doubts as to whether the military-dominated government has the will, or the ability, to hold elections on such a timescale.