The United Nations and Africa Union, among other bodies, have called for the immediate and ‘unconditional’ release of Mali’s interim president Bah Ndaw, saying that his detention will only deepen political chaos in the West African country.

Soldiers in Mali on Monday detained President Ndaw alongside Prime Minister Moctar Ouane hours after a government reshuffle left out two soldiers who led the coup in August last year and raised fears of a second military takeover.

“The international community rejects in advance any act of coercion, including forced resignations,” said the UN and AU in a joint statement.

The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany and the West African economic bloc ECOWAS also signed the statement.

The joint statement called Ndaw and Ouane’s detentions “reckless” and called for Mali’s political transition “to resume its course and conclude within the established timeframe”.

“We emphasize that the ill-considered action taken today carries the risk of weakening the mobilization of the international community in support of Mali,” part of the statement reads in part.

Ndaw, a former soldier, and Ouane were sworn in September last year after Mali’s generals – faced with the threat of regional sanctions – agreed to hand over power to a transitional government in the wake of an August coup that removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Coup leader Assimi Goita was appointed as vice president and the caretaker administration was tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule.

Two others who were instrumental in the coup – Sadio Camara and Colonel Modibo Kone – were given the defence and security portfolios, respectively.

Camara and Kone were replaced in Monday’s shuffle, although the military held onto other strategic portfolios it previously controlled.

With no clear reason to explain the changes, the exclusion came in the face of growing criticism of the interim government, with civil society groups questioning whether the military-dominated government has the will, or the ability to push through reforms and hold elections next year.

As it stands, there has not been any official comment from the military or the government on Ndaw and Ouane’s detentions.

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