Mali’s ousted president Amadou Toumani Toure, whose whereabouts have been unknown since he was overthrown on Thursday last week, has told Agence France-Presse he is safe in the capital, Bamako, and not being held by the junta.
Toure was chased out of power just five weeks before the end of his term in office ahead of elections on April 29, which the junta has since suspended with no fresh poll date fixed.
“I am indeed in Bamako, and thank God my family and I are doing well,” Toure said in a brief telephone conversation on Wednesday.
“What is important to know, is that I am not being held prisoner,” he said.
“I am obviously following what is happening, I wish with all my heart that peace and democracy triumph in Mali. I have nothing else to say for the moment,” he added.
The fate of the 63-year-old Toure had raised concern in the past six days, since renegade soldiers forced him to flee as they fired on the presidency last week in a mutiny that led to a full-blown coup.
The mutineers denounced an “incompetent” government and said they had not been equipped to deal with a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north of the west African nation.
While members of his entourage said Toure was under the protection of his elite paratrooper “Red Beret” guard, coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo had said he was safe in a secret location, raising concerns he was being detained.
On Tuesday, France said its ambassador, Christian Rouyer, had spoken to Toure who “reassured him over his fate.”
The country remains divided over the coup.
Lawmakers and politicians denied access to parliament by the junta have called for a return to constitutional order.
However, several thousand people marched in Bamako on Wednesday, brandishing banners reading “Down with France” and “Down with the international community,” while shouting their support for Sanogo.
The junta has been shunned by world powers and on Tuesday the nation was suspended by the Economic Community of West African States, following a similar move by the African Union.
Four presidents from Mali’s neighboring countries — the Ivory Coast, Benin, Niger and Burkina Faso — were expected to arrive midday yesterday in Bamako to restore constitutional order and negotiate with the junta.