Mali’s opposition supporters flooded into Bamako’s central square to celebrate the military overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which their leaders hailed as a “victory of the Malian people”.
Keita, who was elected for a second five-year term in 2018, announced his resignation on Wednesday, saying he had been given no other choice and wanted to avoid bloodshed.
The coup came after months of protests, staged by a loose coalition called the June 5 Movement, that were fuelled by anger at Keita’s failure to stem a bloody rebellion, revive the economy and tackle corruption.
In contrast to fierce condemnation abroad at the overthrow of an elected leader, many in the rally were jubilant at the change as they sang, danced and waved banners thanking the mutineers.
“I am overjoyed! We won. We came here to thank all the people of Mali, because this is the victory of the people,” said opposition supporter Mariam Cisse, 38.
Ousmane Diallo, a retired soldier aged 62, said, “We are here to celebrate the victory of the people. Just the victory of the people.”
“IBK has failed,” he said, using a common reference to the former president by his initials. “The people are victorious.”
But, he cautioned, “The military should not be thinking now that they can stay in power.”
Thousands on Friday gathered in the capital’s Independence Square, the birthplace of a months-long protest movement, many of them draped in Mali’s national flag and blasting on vuvuzela horns.
They rallied three days after mutinying troops seized the country’s 75-year-old president, forced him to announce his resignation and unveiled a military government that would rule until a “transitional president” takes over.
“We have come here to thank you, to thank the Malian public for its support. We merely completed the work that you began and we recognise ourselves in your fight,” the military government’s spokesman, Ismael Wague, said.