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