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African leaders demand swift release of detained Mali president

FILE PHOTO: President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was seized on Tuesday and resigned on Wednesday after being detained in a coup launched by mutinous troops.

Nairobi, Kenya | XINHUA | African leaders have strongly condemned the Tuesday military coup in Mali during which President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was seized by mutinying soldiers.

The leaders who included Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta and his counterparts from South Africa, DR Congo, Rwanda and Mozambique among others also demanded the immediate release of Keita.

In a statement issued in Nairobi on Friday after a virtual meeting on Thursday evening, the leaders also called for the immediate release of senior members of his administration, among them the country’s Prime Minister Boubou Cisse.

Kenyatta urged for a “speedy, peaceful and democratic” resolution of the crisis while South African President Cyril Ramaphosa called for dialogue to restore peace and stability in the West African country.

President Felix Tshisekedi of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo) rallied African countries to take a firm position on the matter saying the coup was “dangerous for democracy in Africa”.

Keita resigned on Wednesday after being detained in a coup launched by mutinous troops.

Meanwhile, the leaders who spoke during the virtual meeting of the African Union Bureau also discussed the continental response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The meeting was also attended by representatives of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), African special envoys on COVID-19 and the Director of Africa CDC John Nkengasong.

During the meeting, President Kenyatta said Africa needs to elevate its global partnerships in the search for a COVID-19 vaccine so as to “ensure that African countries are not further marginalized but are positioned to be among the first line of beneficiaries, once a breakthrough is made.”

He commended the special envoys for their efforts in helping the continent deal with the health and socioeconomic impacts of COVID-19.

“The economic challenges we face require concerted multilateral effort, such as prioritizing debt cancellation and Bretton Woods led relief package that do not exacerbate emerging local challenges,” he said.

In his report, Nkengasong informed the leaders that despite crossing the one million mark of COVID-19 infections, Africa had in the last two weeks witnessed a 37 percent reduction in reported daily infections.

Nkengasong said seven COVID-19 vaccine trials were nearing World Health Organization (WHO) approval. Four African countries among them Kenya are participating in the clinical trials for these vaccines.

He said Africa targets to vaccinate 60 percent of her population at an estimated cost of 10 to 15 billion U.S. dollars once the COVID-19 vaccine becomes available.

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