, NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 22 – Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula now says that the situation in Mali is getting worse and a curfew is in force in Bamako.
Wetangula, who is in the company of three other government officials posted a message on his Facebook page on Thursday morning saying heavy gunfire could be heard from the hotel where they were holed up.
He also said that he had received a call from the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union Jean Ping.
“Situation worsening; curfew imposed. Airport closed. Heavier gunfire can be heard repeatedly. Received call from AU chief Dr Jean Ping,” the post read.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry had earlier sent a statement to newsrooms assuring Kenyans of the officials’ safety after they were stranded in the West African country following Wednesday’s coup d’etat.
The statement also indicated that the government was in touch with other Kenyan nationals in Mali and was working with Kenya Airways for a possible evacuation.
“The government is also trying to establish contact with the interim authority that is reported to have taken charge in a bid to have the Kenyans evacuated,” the statement assured.
Wetangula, who had travelled to Mali to attend an African Union meeting on peace and security, had earlier said that he and his colleagues were unable to establish whether they were other Kenyans living in Mali.
Wetangula added: “Another Kenya, manager of KQ Bamako holed up at the airport where he had gone ahead to receive yesterday’s flight & check us in. We are in communication.”
The government’s statement asked Kenyans in Mali to get in touch with Kenya Airways Area Manager Sally Osuke, in Bamako on +22177638386 for assistance.
“The government is in touch with the Kenyan delegation and is keenly observing the unfolding scenario and awaiting for more information on the state of security.”
Wetangula was due to return to Nairobi on Wednesday night on a Kenya Airways flight before the military putsch forced the airline to cancel landing in Bamako.
French news agency (AFP) reported on Wednesday that soldiers fired shots in the air in Bamako before storming the state broadcaster to demand better equipment with which to battle an insurgency in the north.
Anger has grown in recent weeks over the government’s handling of the conflict in which the Tuareg have seized several towns, causing up to 200,000 people to flee.
While no official death toll is available, many soldiers are believed to have died in the fighting. When the town of Aguelhok was captured, up to 100 soldiers and civilians were summarily executed, France said in February.
That same month, the wives and families of those fighting the rebels took to the streets of the capital and several other cities, and some protests turned violent as they denounced what they said was the government’s weak response.
Tuareg homes and properties were vandalised and angry protesters also aimed their anger at other light-skinned communities such as the Arabs or Mauritanians.
Since mid-January, northern Mali has been rocked by a rebellion fought by the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) and other Tuareg who have taken up a decades-old struggle for independence.