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Go back to work, Malians told, as colonel Goita declares himself junta head

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BAMAKO (Reuters) – Army colonel Assimi Goita presented himself as head of the junta that ousted Mali’s president, as its spokesman sought to reassure citizens that daily life could resume as normal from Thursday.

Junta members met government ministry officials late on Wednesday to map out a return to stability, a day after detaining President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in a coup that has rocked a country already in the grip of a jihadist insurgency and civil unrest.

It has also been condemned by international powers and regional organisations.

“I am Colonel Assimi Goita, president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP),” Assimi, dressed in military fatigues, told reporters after the meeting.

“Following yesterday’s event which led to the change of power we believed that it was our duty to state our position to the (ministries’) general secretaries, so they may be able to work immediately.”

The capital Bamako was calm for the second straight day on Thursday, a Reuters reporter said, as people appeared to heed calls from the junta’s presumed spokesman, Colonel Emmanuel Wague, to “freely go about their business and restart activities.”

Crowds had poured into the streets of the capital on Tuesday to celebrate the coup.

Little is known about the backgrounds of the junta’s leadership, which includes several other colonels.

Wague read the statement early Wednesday morning that announced the military takeover, promising to organise national elections within a “reasonable” time.

Late on Wednesday he said civil servants should also return to work from Thursday, and that the junta was taking “all measures .. to protect the personnel and their belongings as well as their place of work.”

Condemnation of the coup has been widespread abroad, amid concerns it could disrupt a military campaign against jihadists linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State operating in northern and central Mali and West Africa’s wider Sahel region.

Heads of state from the 15 members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which suspended Mali and shut off its borders on Tuesday, are due to hold an extraordinary virtual session on Thursday to address the situation.

Go back to work, Malians told, as colonel Goita declares himself junta head

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