AFRICA: Mali’s President Resigns, Coup Leadership Says It Too, Will Step Aside …
The ousted president of the West African nation of Mali has resigned and leaders of the coup that drove Amadou Tourani Toure from the presidential palace say they, too, will relinquish power – but are vague about when that will be.
Toure signed a letter of resignation Sunday (April 8) saying he did so freely because “of the love that I have for this country,” Reuters reported. The two-term, democratically elected president was due to step down within weeks anyway because of term limits. But that was before the military coup drove him from office and threw the country into chaos.
Mali’s neighbors imposed harsh economic sanctions and closed their borders to the embattled country, which is dependent on imports of food and fuel. Meanwhile, an insurgency by Tuareg separatists in Mali’s desert north took advantage of the chaos and seized the three largest towns in the region including fabled Timbuktu. The nomadic Tuarags, some of whom seek to impose Islamic sharia law, now control the northern half of Mali and declared it an independent state. But the African Union, United States and the united Nations refused to recognize it – or the junta now running the rest of the country.
AFP is reporting that Islamist extremists have joined the revolt and in some cases are battling the Tuaregs for control. Among the groups said to orgainizing or fighting within the Tuareg controlled area they call Azawad, are members of al Qaeda in the Maghreb, Boko Harum – a Nigerian extremeist group – and the strict Islamist Ansar Dine group.
Ironically, it was the Toure government’s inept handling of the Tuareg revolt that sparked the military revolt by a group of young army officers who seized and looted the presidential palace, arrested cabinet members and voided Mali’s constitution.
The soldiers claimed they were poorly led and insufficiently equipped to battle the nomadic Tuaregs, many of them returning heavilly armed from serving in the army of deposed Libyan strongman Muammar Qadaffii.
The coup leaders went on national television claiming they would return control to civilian hands after the crisis was over. But leaders of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed sanctions on Mali
ECOWAS agreed to lift the economic and diplomatic sanctions when the junta agreed to give up power but in a broadcast message on Monday (April 9) the coup leader, Capt. Amadou Sanogo, said he would sit down with ECOWAS in 40 days to decide how the country shoould be run until elections can be held. That wasn’t the deal ECOWAS intermediators thought they had with the junta, the Associated Press reported.
ECOWAS is readying a 3,000-man force to restore order in Mali and help take back the reble-seized north. But Sanogo warned against foreign intervention, saying Mali simply wanted better equipment and logistical help to take care of the rebels.