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West Africa scrambles to respond to new Mali crisis

Former Nigerian President and special envoy of Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) for a mediation mission Jonathan Goodluck, arrives in Bamako on May 25, 2021   -  
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MICHELE CATTANI/AFP or licensors

Mali

Mali's strongman on Tuesday pushed out leaders tasked with steering the return to civilian rule following a coup, as former colonial power France warned it could lead a charge to impose sanctions against the regime.

Colonel Assimi Goita, who headed a junta that seized power less than 10 months ago, said that transitional President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane had been stripped of their powers, and he promised elections in 2022.

The announcement marks the latest crisis to hit the vast West African country, burdened by poverty and struggling with a militant insurgency.

Ndaw and Ouane have been heading an interim government that was installed in September under the threat of regional sanctions, with the declared aim of restoring full civilian rule within 18 months.

ECOWAS envoy arrives in Bamako

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Tuesday dispatched former Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan to Bamako, as it scrambled to respond to the latest crisis in the Sahel country.

"Of course we are here because there are some few developments that ECOWAS is a bit worried, and as the team that is mediating we need to come and listen to our people what has happened," Jonathan told reporters before being driven away from the airport.

Public discontent

Monday's reshuffle came amid signs of discontent among the public, which had initially hailed the army for bringing down Keita.

The opposition M5 movement urged dissolving the interim government and demanded a "more legitimate" body.

On May 14, the government said it would appoint a new "broad-based" cabinet.

In the streets of Bamako, life seemed to continue as normal on Tuesday despite the ouster of Ndaw and Ouane, and many people interviewed by AFP said they were resigned to events.

Tahirou Bah, a civil society activist, attacked "putschist colonels.... (who) fight to the death for power" at a time when "80 percent of our country is under the control of terrorists, drug traffickers and bandits of every kind."

But, he said, many people simply focussed on day-to-day living - "This is survival for many Malians."

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