The man who ousted Mali's president from power last year regained control of the West African country Tuesday by deposing the president and prime minister of the transitional government, a move France decried as another coup d'etat.
While Col. Assimi Goita pledged to go ahead with holding new elections in 2022 as previously promised, his display of force casts doubt on whether the vote will go ahead without significant interference by the junta that overthrew the last democratically elected president last August.
The move also raised concerns that the new political unrest could further destabilize efforts to control Mali's long-running Islamic insurgency. The United Nations now spends some $ 1.2 billion annually on a peacekeeping mission in Mali and France's military has spent eight years trying to stabilize its former colony amid the ongoing threat.
French President Emmanuel Macron described the government takeover as a “coup d'etat” and warned of repercussions.
“We are prepared to take targeted sanctions on the protagonists,” he said in a tweet.
The EU also warned that it was “ready to consider targeted measures against political and military leaders who obstruct the Malian transition.”
The military's announcement on the state broadcaster Tuesday came a day after President Bah N’Daw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were arrested by soldiers and brought to the military headquarters in Kati, about 15 kilometers (9 miles) outside the capital. Both men remained in detention Tuesday and there was no immediate word about their conditions.
Their arrests prompted an outcry by the international community, which put out a strongly worded statement warning Mali's military leaders that their actions could undermine global support for the country. That joint statement made by the African Union, United Nations, the E.U., France and the U.S. among others called for the immediate release of the president and prime minister.
The West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS, which also endorsed the statement, said Tuesday afternoon that it was sending a delegation to Bamako as the political crisis escalated. The regional body previously threatened the junta with sanctions if it did not install a civilian president and prime minister, and shorten the transitional period to 18 months.