Group of French-speaking countries suspends Mali after coup

International News
Assimi Goita

Col. Assimi Goita, who has declared himself the leader of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, arrives to meet with former Nigerian president and mediator for the West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS, Goodluck Jonathan, at the Ministry of Defense in the capital Bamako, Mali Monday, Aug. 24, 2020. The military junta now in charge of Mali insisted Monday that former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had resigned of his own free will and was not overthrown, as the officers now running the country try to prolong their rule until 2023. (AP Photo/Baba Ahmed)

PARIS (AP) — Mali has been suspended from a global body of French-speaking countries after a military junta overthrew the West African country’s democratically elected president.

The permanent council of the International Organization of Francophonie decided on the suspension after holding an emergency meeting to discuss the situation in Mali. The organization will send a high-level delegation to Mali’s capital, Bamako, in the coming days to evaluate the situation, it said in a statement.

It pledged to continue cooperation “that directly benefits the civilian population” and called for the release of deposed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and other officials arrested by the coup leaders on Aug. 18. The Francophonie group also called for the immediate creation of a civilian-run transitional government.

The decision by the French-speaking body follows the suspension of Mali from the 15-nation West African regional bloc ECOWAS. The regional group also shut borders, halted financial flows with the country and threatened further sanctions.

It held unsuccessful talks with the military junta in an attempt to get it to agree to immediately return Mali to civilian rule.

The European Union will also be suspending its security training missions in Mali because the mandate is to work and support legitimate national authorities, according to an EU official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press on the matter.

The suspension is temporary, he said.

The EU has trained about 18,000 soldiers but says it did not train any of the top officers responsible for the coup.

The EU, however, also announced that it expanded its training mandate to include Niger and Burkina Faso.

While the international community has been pressing for a quick return to civilian rule, the military junta now running Mali is seeking to prolong its rule until 2023. The military officers now in charge insisted on Monday that Keita had resigned of his own free will and was not overthrown, and thousands of people rallied last week in support of the new leaders.

African countries and the wider international community have expressed fears that Mali’s upheaval could allow Islamic extremists to extend their reach. Mali has been fighting against Islamic extremists with heavy international support for more than seven years, and jihadists have previously used power vacuums in the country to expand their territory.

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Associated Press writers Carley Petesch in Dakar, Senegal, and Lorne Cook in Brussels contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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