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West African envoys expected in coup-stricken Mali on Saturday

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Malian soldiers drive through the streets of Bamako, Mali on August 19, 2020, the day after rebel troops seized Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse in a dramatic escalation of a months-long crisis. – Mali awoke on August 19, 2020, to a new chapter in its troubled history after rebel military leaders forced Malian President Boubacar Keita from office, prompting its West African neighbours to threaten border closures and sanctions against the coup leaders.<br />Keita, embattled by months of protests over economic stagnation, corruption and a brutal Islamist insurgency, said he had resigned to avoid bloodshed. (Photo by ANNIE RISEMBERG / AFP)


Envoys from the West African regional bloc ECOWAS are expected in Mali on Saturday for talks following the country’s coup, a member of the new junta and an ECOWAS source said Friday.

The mission to Bamako will be led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, the ECOWAS source said, describing the trip as aiming “to help the search for solutions”.

The junta official said: “We will receive the ECOWAS delegation with pleasure… it is important to talk to our brothers.”

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The country’s elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was overthrown on Tuesday by mutinying troops, who took him as well as Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other senior officials into custody.

The coup has sent shockwaves around West Africa, sparking fears that one of the region’s most volatile states, and a front line in the fight against jihadism, could collapse.

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ECOWAS — the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States — on Thursday had announced it would dispatch a high-level delegation “to ensure the immediate return of constitutional order”.

It also demanded Keita be restored as president and warned the junta that it bore “responsibility for the safety and security” of the detainees.

UN human rights officials gained access to the Keita and the others on Thursday, and the junta on Friday said it had released two prisoners, retaining 17.

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