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Coup: Soldiers promise free election in Mali

Soldiers who overthrew Mali’s president and government in a military coup on Tuesday have promised to oversee elections within a “reasonable” time.

 The coup leaders made the pledge on Wednesday, following increasing calls from sections of the international community for a peaceful resolution to  the crisis in the landlocked West African nation.

An already acute political crisis received a severe jolt on Tuesday, when President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resigned and dissolved parliament. Mr. Keita’s announcement on national TV came only hours after Mutinous troops detained him at gunpoint.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), a fifteen-nation regional grouping,  acted swiftly to suspend Mali from its membership, with leading countries within the bloc expressing fears that Mr. Keita’s ouster after nearly seven years in office could destabilise the Sahel region.

It was still not clear early on Wednesday who was leading the military revolt.

A spokesman for the mutineers, calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, said they had acted to prevent Mali from falling further into chaos.

The officer, Colonel Ismael Wague invited Mali’s civil society and political movements to join them to create conditions for a political transition.

 “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 in a statement broadcast on national TV.

“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,” he added.

There was no immediate reaction to Colonel Wague’s offer from the opposition and leaders of recent protests. However, the presidency of the G5 Sahel group of neighbouring states called on Malians to resolve the crisis peacefully, and demanded the release of President Keita and other senior officials.

On Wednesday, European Union Industry Commissioner Thierry Breton said the bloc would insist on new elections within a reasonable timeframe.

In a violent run-up to Tuesday’s coup following months of protests against alleged corruption, at least fourteen people were killed last month in protests called by a coalition of Mr. Keita’s political opponents.

Mali has struggled to regain stability since a Tuareg rebellion in 2012 which was hijacked by Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda, and a subsequent coup in the capital, Bamako, plunged the country into chaos.

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