The junta who ousted Mali’s elected president and government in a military coup promised on Wednesday to restore stability and oversee a transition to elections within a “reasonable” time.
It also announced the closure of Mali’s air and land borders and imposed a curfew from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. until further notice.
At gunpoint, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned and dissolved parliament late on Tuesday hours after the mutineers detained him, plunging a country already facing a jihadist insurgency and mass protests deeper into crisis.
It was still not clear early on Wednesday who was leading the revolt and who will become the head of state.
Several colonels have been mentioned as coup leaders.
But a spokesman for the mutineers, calling themselves patriotic forces of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, said they acted to prevent Mali from falling further into chaos.
The coup was quickly condemned on Tuesday by Mali’s regional and international partners, who fear Keita’s fall could further destabilise the country.
Shares in two gold mining companies operating in the country fell sharply on Wednesday, as they sought to reassure investors that their operations were not affected.
Mutineers’ spokesman Colonel-Major Ismael Wague invited Mali’s civil society and political movements to join them to create conditions for a political transition.
Wagué was the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force, before the putsch.
“Our country is sinking into chaos, anarchy and insecurity mostly due to the fault of the people who are in charge of its destiny,” he said while flanked by soldiers in a statement broadcast on state-owned television.
“We are not keen on power, but we are keen on the stability of the country, which will allow us to organise general elections to allow Mali to equip itself with strong institutions within the reasonable time limit.”
Wague also declared that the military junta would respect Mali’s international agreements.
He also said forces such as Minusma (UN force) or even Barkhane ” remain partners for the restoration of stability “.
The profile of the soldiers who overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is different from that of the coup leaders of 2012. The leaders of the coup are senior officers unlike those of 2012 where there was a majority of non-commissioned officers and men of the ranks.
Late on Tuesday, anti-government protesters had poured into a central square in Bamako to cheer the mutineers as they drove through in military vehicles.
The capital was far quieter early on Wednesday, with few civilians on the streets most shops in one residential area still closed amid evidence of overnight looting.
Videos circulating on social media showed Malians running unchecked through luxury compounds in the city, including properties identified as belonging to Justice Minister Kassoum Tapo and Keita’s son Karim. It was not immediately possible for Reuters to authenticate the footage.
Landlocked Mali has struggled to regain stability since Tuareg uprising in 2012 which was hijacked by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda, and a subsequent coup in the capital plunged the country into chaos
Keita, 75, came to power in 2013 following the Bamako coup promising to bring peace and stability and fight corruption. He won reelection for a second five-year term in 2018.
On Wednesday, European Union Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said the bloc would insist on new elections on Mali within a reasonable timeframe, while China said it opposed regime change by force
ECOWAS on Tuesday suspended Mali from its institutions, and closed its member states’ borders with Mali.
Having previously warned it would no longer tolerate military coups in the region, the bloc plans to send a delegation to Mali to ensure a return to constitutional democracy.
The U.N. Security Council will be briefed on Mali behind closed-doors on Wednesday at the request of France and Niger, diplomats said.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had on Tuesday called for the immediate release of Keita and other detainees.