Army colonel Assimi Goita has been introduced as Mali’s new military strongman after a mutiny forced President Boubacar Keita out of power.
Col. Assimi Goita is one of the five military officers that announced the coup on the state broadcaster ORTM, declaring himself chairman of the junta now in power.
“Let me introduce myself, I am Colonel Assimi Goita, chairman of the National Committee for the salvation of the People,” he said.
“Mali is in a situation of socio-political crisis. There is no more room for mistakes,” Goita, surrounded by armed military men, told journalists.
His entourage claim that Goita, who is in his forties, was the head of Mali’s Special Forces based in the centre of the West African country, torn for the last five years by jihadist and sectarian violence.
Goita had also taken part in the annual Flintlock training organized by the U.S. military to help Mali and other Sahel countries better fight extremists.
The extremists, who have been fighting even before Keita’s government, had expanded their reach, infiltrating the central part of the country where they inflamed tensions between ethnic groups. Attacks have dramatically increased over the past year.
Several military men told AFP on condition of anonymity that Goita was the true force behind the coup.
Goita met high-level civil servants in Mali’s capital Bamako before declaring himself as the leader of the ‘National Committee for the Salvation of the People’.
However, it is 25-year-old colonel Malick Diaw that led the coup that overthrew Mali’s government in a twist of dramatic events – not so different from the Zimbabwean 2017 alleged coup.
It is reported that the mutinous soldiers – calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People – seized weapons from the armory in the garrison town of Kati and then advanced to the capital of Bamako where they stormed the presidential residence and took him into custody along with Prime Minister Boubou Cisse.
The group seized power in a coup that followed months of protests in the country, arresting incumbent President Ibrahim Boubakar and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse.
The coup d’etat has drawn international condemnation although the junta leaders have pledged to restore stability and oversee a transition to elections within a “reasonable” period.
West Africa’s 15-nation regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States, after the coup suspended Mali from its institutions and closed its member states’ borders with Mali.
Having previously warned it would no longer tolerate military takeovers in the region, the bloc plans to send a high-level delegation to Mali to ensure a return to constitutional democracy.
The Chairman of the African Union and South African President Cyril Ramaphosa has also condemned the “unconstitutional change of government” in Mali and demanded its detained politicians be freed.
The French military has been silent since the coup began, refusing to comment on what its troops in Mali are doing as the crisis plays out.
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