President Muhammadu Buhari, on Wednesday, received an update from former President Goodluck Jonathan on the effort to restore constitutional order in Mali, with the president affirming that the priority in the crisis-torn West African neighbour should be securing the country, which is largely occupied by terrorists.
The meeting of Jonathan, who is ECOWAS Special Envoy to Mali, with Buhari came ahead of an extraordinary virtual summit by ECOWAS heads of state and leaders, scheduled for Friday.
A statement issued by Femi Adesina, Special Adviser to the President (Media and Publicity) in Abuja quoted the former president as telling Buhari that his delegation has told the Mali coup leaders that an intern government with nine-month duration will be the only thing acceptable to the sub-region.
It quoted President Buhari as stressing: “About two-thirds of Mali is occupied by terrorists, and it makes common sense to secure the country, rather than pursuing individual interests.”
The president said the sub-region would take a common position on the issue when the leaders meet on Friday, hoping that an amicable and generally acceptable position to all interested parties would be arrived at.
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Dr Jonathan had brought the President up to speed on dialogue with the military coup leaders, who are seeking to stay in power for three years, before holding elections.
“They call themselves National Committee for the Salvation of the People. We asked them to allow ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to return to his personal residence, where he would be given tight security, but they said he could travel abroad, and not return to answer questions they may have for him,’’ the Special Envoy said.
“We also told them that what would be acceptable to ECOWAS was an Interim Government, headed by a civilian or retired military officer, to last for six or nine months and a maximum of 12 calendar months. The Interim Government would then organize elections to restore full constitutional order.”
Dr Jonathan disclosed that his team was allowed to meet with the ousted President, who confirmed that he resigned voluntarily, adding that he was no longer interested in returning to his former position.
He added that the military leaders want ECOWAS to lift sanctions put in place, as it was already affecting the country, “but we told them that the authority to do such was only in the hands of ECOWAS heads of state.”
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