The United Nations said Friday it had gained access to Mali’s ousted president while rebel troops said they had released two other detained leaders, in developments that followed mounting international pressure on the new junta.
“Last night, a team from MINUSMA #HumanRights went to #Kati in the framework of its mandate to protect human rights and was able to gain access to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other detainees,” the UN peacekeeping mission said.
Kati is a military base near the capital Bamako where the detainees were taken during Tuesday’s coup in the troubled West African country.
Separately, a member of the junta, speaking on condition of anonymity, said it had authoritised a “UN human rights mission” to visit all 19 prisoners in Kati, including Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse.
The source said the junta had released former economy minister Abdoulaye Daffe and Sabane Mahalmoudou, Keita’s private secretary.
“Two prisoners have been released. There are still 17 in Kati. This is the proof that we respect human rights,” the junta member said.
Rebel soldiers seized Keita and other leaders after staging a mutiny at Kati, a base about 15 kilometres (nine miles) from Bamako.
They named their organisation the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, under the leadership of a colonel named Assimi Goita, and vowed to stage elections “within a reasonable time”.
The West African bloc ECOWAS, the African Union, the European Union, United States and UN Security Council have all condemned the putsch and demanded the release of Keita and other detained leaders.
The coup is Mali’s second in eight years, and deals a body blow to a country struggling with a jihadist insurgency, moribund economy and deep public resentment over its government.
A putsch in 2012 was followed by an insurrection in the north of the country which developed into a jihadist insurgency that now threatens neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.
Thousands of UN and French troops, along with soldiers from five Sahel countries, have been deployed to try to stem the bloodshed.
The junta’s spokesman, Ismael Wague, said on Thursday that “a transitional council, with a transitional president who is going to be either military or civilian” would be appointed.
The transition “will be the shortest possible,” he told France 24 television.
Those detained, according to various sources, include Defence Minister Ibrahima Dahirou Dembele; Security Minister M’Bemba Moussa Keita; and the president of the National Assembly, Moussa Timbine, according to various sources.
Others are army chief of staff General Abdoulaye Coulibaly; the president’s personal chief of staff General Oumar Dao; air force chief General Souleymane Doucoure; and the head of the National Guard, Ouahoun Kone.