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World: Thousands join Mali rally to celebrate Keita's ouster

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Opposition supporters flooded into Bamako's central square on Friday to celebrate the overthrow of Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, where they were warmly praised by the country's new military rulers.

a man standing in front of a crowd: The rally had initially been called as a protest against President Keita. After his ouster, it was recast as an act of celebration © ANNIE RISEMBERG The rally had initially been called as a protest against President Keita. After his ouster, it was recast as an act of celebration

Thousands gathered in the capital's Independence Square, the birthplace of a months-long protest movement, many of them draped in Mali's national flag and blasting on vuvuzela horns.

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a group of people standing in front of a crowd: A placard in the crowd reflects opposition to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, and France's anti-jihadist force, Barkhane © ANNIE RISEMBERG A placard in the crowd reflects opposition to the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali, MINUSMA, and France's anti-jihadist force, Barkhane

They rallied three days after mutinying troops seized the country's unpopular 75-year-old president, forced him to announce his resignation and unveiled a junta that would rule until a "transitional president" takes over.

a group of people standing in front of a crowd: Thousands demonstrate in Mali in support of coup © Malick KONATE Thousands demonstrate in Mali in support of coup

In contrast to fierce condemnation abroad at the overthrow of an elected leader, many in the square were jubilant and shouted their approval when the junta came to pay tribute for the public's part in the drama.

"We have come here to thank you, to thank the Malian public for its support," the junta's spokesman, Ismael Wague, told the crowd.

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"We merely completed the work that you began and we recognise ourselves in your fight."

Keita's downfall came after months of protests, staged by a loose coalition called the June 5 Movement, that were fuelled by anger at failures to stem a bloody jihadist insurgency, revive the economy and tackle corruption.

"I am overjoyed! We won. We came here to thank all the people of Mali, because this is the victory of the people," said opposition supporter Mariam Cisse, 38.

Ousmane Diallo, a retired soldier aged 62, said, "We are here to celebrate the victory of the people. Just the victory of the people."

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"IBK has failed," he said, using a common reference to the ousted president by his initials. "The people are victorious."

But, he cautioned, "the military should not be thinking now that they can stay in power."

- Broad welcome -

Friday's "victory rallies" had initially been scheduled as the latest round of protests to force out Keita by the June 5 Movement, also called the M5-RFP.

The movement -- a loose alliance of parties, religious leaders and grassroots groups -- has given a broad welcome to the president's fall.

Influential Malian imam and opposition leader Mahmoud Dicko, who was key to the mobilisation of protests against Keita, said he would leave politics now after the president's ouster.

"I am going back to the mosque, I am an imam," said the religious leader, adding that he wanted to "unite all Malians".

Keita, who was elected for a second five-year term in 2018, announced his resignation early Wednesday, saying he had been given no other choice and wanted to avoid bloodshed.

The June 5 Movement, in its first reaction, said it "took note of the (junta's) commitment" for a civilian transition and promised to work with it on "developing a roadmap".

Some of the placards brandished in the rally reflected resentment at perceived foreign interference in Mali's affairs.

One read, "ECOWAS, a union of heads of state serving personal interests," a reference to the 15-nation regional bloc that has led the condemnation of the coup and stands by Keita.

The bloc is to send envoys on Saturday, led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.

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Mali: The coup causes problems for France .
After the coup in Mali, the military junta initially wants to remain in power. For the former colonial power France, the overthrow brings enormous problems: Islamists are likely to take advantage of the power vacuum in the country. © Uncredited / dpa A military escort picked up President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and his Prime Minister Boubou Cissé last week in the Malian capital Bamako and brought both men to the garrison town of Kati. There Keïta later announced his resignation to .

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