Defense minister: Estonian Defense Forces safe in Mali despite coup ({{contentCtrl.commentsTotal}})

Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa).
Minister of Defense Jüri Luik (Isamaa). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Estonian Defense Forces serving in Mali are safely in their bases, Minister of Defense Jüri Luik said on Wednesday morning. An apparent coup in the country has seen the president step down and the military seize power.

Currently, 77 members of the Estonian Defense Forces are serving in the military missions of the United Nations, the European Union and France in Mali. Luik (Isamaa) told ERR they would be fine after the coup.

"International forces are by far the most powerful military force in Mali, so in that sense they can, of course, ensure their own security," Luik said.

He said the coup has been condemned by the international community and that similar events took place in 2012, when the military seized power. He added the events are taking place in the capital and not across the whole country.

At the same time, according to Luik, the coup is not taking place against the will of the people, because attitudes towards the president and the government have been negative for a long time.

"Is it a reflection of general public discontent, especially in the capital, Bamako, where there have been months of demonstrations against the Malian government and President Keita. And media shows the military who carried out the coup shared or reflected the outrage of the crowd," the minister explained.

Luik emphasized to ERR that the Malian army is not opposed to international forces and that international forces would remain neutral.

Estonian troops are serving in Mali as part of the French-led operation Barkhane, in which they are tasked with force protection and conduct of joint patrols with French units. The Estonian contingent is made up of an infantry platoon, a national support element and staff officers.

Currently, there are 48 members of the EDF participating in Operation Barkhane, 23 in Operation Takuba, three in the EUTM, the European Union's advisory mission, and three in the UN mission, MINUSMA.

Foreign minister Urmas Reinsalu (Isamaa) tweeted on Wednesday morning that he was following the events in Mali with "great concern".

"We condemn any unconstitutional changes of government. [It is] Important to end [the] violence, the crisis can only be solved via dialogue," the tweet said.

Estonian soldiers to continue service in Mali despite coup

The members of the defense forces serving will continue their service, military spokespeople in Tallinn told BNS on Wednesday. 

The members of the defense forces are not in danger, they are monitoring the situation and will continue their service, the spokespeople said.

Rebel troops seized Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse in a dramatic escalation on Tuesday of a months-long crisis.

A few hours later, Keita made a statement on national television announcing his resignation. 

He also announced that his government and the National Assembly would be dissolved, certain to further the country's turmoil amid an eight-year Islamic insurgency and the growing coronavirus pandemic.

Keita, who was democratically elected in 2013 and reelected five years later, was left with few choices after the mutinous soldiers seized weapons from the armory in the garrison town of Kati and then advanced on the capital of Bamako.

The UN, the African Union, the European Union, and the regional bloc called Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which had been trying to mediate Mali's political crisis, warned the mutineers against any attempt at unconstitutional seizure of power. 

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Editor: Helen Wright

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