Mali’s President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, has announced his resignation.
This comes hours after soldiers seized him from his home as part of a coup following months of mass protests against alleged corruption and worsening security in the country.
The news of Keita’s departure was met with jubilation by anti-government demonstrators on Wednesday, while leaders of the military coup said they would enact a political transition and stage elections within a “reasonable time”.
The soldiers behind the coup – calling themselves the National Committee for the Salvation of the People – appeared on state television in military fatigues, pledging to stabilise the country.
“We are not holding on to power but we are holding on to the stability of the country,” said Ismail Wague, Mali Air Force’s deputy chief of staff.
“With you, standing as one, we can restore this country to its former greatness,” said Wague, announcing borders were closed and a curfew was going into effect from 9pm to 5am.
“This will allow us to organise within an agreed reasonable timeframe, general elections to equip Mali with strong institutions, which are able to better manage our everyday lives and restore confidence between the government and the governed.”
Keita announced he was stepping down in a brief address on national broadcaster ORTM at around midnight. Looking tired and wearing a surgical mask, the 75-year-old said his resignation – three years before his final term was due to end – was effective immediately.
He also declared the dissolution of his government and the National Assembly.
“If today, certain elements of our armed forces want this to end through their intervention, do I really have a choice?” Keita said from a military base in Kati outside the capital Bamako where he and his Prime Minister Boubou Cisse had been detained earlier in the day.
“I wish no blood to be shed to keep me in power,” he said. “I have decided to step down from office.”