BAMAKO, May 26 (Reuters) – West African mediators were due to meet on Wednesday with Mali’s detained interim president and prime minister after threatening sanctions against military officers whose takeover this week could jeopardise a transition back to democracy.
The military arrested President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on Monday. Interim vice president Colonel Assimi Goita, who led a coup against the previous president last August, said on Tuesday he had stripped the men of their posts because they failed to consult him about a cabinet reshuffle.
Mali’s neighbours and international powers have condemned the takeover, which they fear could further destabilise a country that Islamist groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have used as a launch pad for attacks across the region.
A delegation from the Economic Community of West African State (ECOWAS), the main regional bloc, met late on Tuesday with Goita and was due to meet on Wednesday with Ndaw and Ouane, who are still being held at the Kati military base outside Bamako.
During the meeting with Goita, the ECOWAS mediators, led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, raised the possibility of sanctions against the officers responsible for the takeover, said a military official who was present.
ECOWAS imposed sanctions, including border closures, on Mali in August after the coup that unseated President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita but lifted those measures after Goita’s junta agreed to an 18-month, civilian-led transition.
Other sanctions could follow. Emmanuel Macron, president of former colonial power France, said on Tuesday he was prepared to impose targeted sanctions over what he called “a coup within a coup”. The European Union’s foreign policy chief also threatened sanctions.
In his statement on Tuesday, Goita said the president and prime minister had violated the transitional charter by failing to consult him about the new cabinet, in which two former coup leaders lost their posts.
Goita promised that elections planned for next year at the end of the transitional period would go ahead.
He also accused the government of mishandling the situation in Mali, including a strike last week by the main union. The union said on Tuesday it would suspend the strike in light of the political crisis.
(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo and Paul Lorgerie; Writing by Aaron Ross; Editing by Giles Elgood and Nick Macfie)