Mali suspended from African Union in wake of military coup

Sat, Mar 24, 2012, 00:00

THE AFRICAN Union has suspended Mali following Thursday’s military coup, which deposed long-time president Amadou Toumani Touré. Speaking at a meeting of the AU Peace and Security Council in Addis Ababa yesterday, the AU chairman, Jean Ping, said a high-level mission would be sent to the Malian capital, Bamako, to assess the situation.

The coup has already been widely condemned – the west African regional governance body, Ecowas, described it as military adventurism and the EU, the African Development Bank and the World Bank have all suspended aid programmes to the country.

The coup took place just weeks before an election was due to be held in Mali, for which Mr Touré had announced he would not be standing. The situation in Bamako is being described as tense but calm, although groups of soldiers were seen driving around and shooting in the air. Witnesses say widespread looting has been taking place, with incidents of soldiers flagging down cars and then stealing them.

The military was ordered back to barracks yesterday morning by the leaders of the coup, a group of relatively junior and hitherto unknown soldiers called the National Committee for the Reinstatement of Democracy and the Restoration of the State .

“Things are calming down,” said Abdoul Karim Ba, a Malian journalist in the city. “But people still don’t really know what is going on.”

Questions still surround the whereabouts of former president Mr Touré. A stalemate seems to have been established between the coup organisers, who control most of the state institutions and the “Red Berets” presidential guard and parachute regiment, who are believed to be still protecting Mr Touré.

“People don’t really seem to be very scared,” said a resident of Bamako. “A lot of people support the coup because they were sick of young soldiers being sent up north to be used as cannon fodder.”

The leader of the coup, Capt Amadou Sanogo, a former English teacher at the military base in Kati, said that it had been staged in retaliation for Mr Touré’s poor handling of a Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country.

He added that he had no intention of hanging on to power and that he merely wanted the army to be properly equipped to secure the country.

Scores of Malian soldiers have been killed since January as they faced better-armed and well-organised Tuareg rebels who are seeking independence for the Tuareg homelands, a vast desert region more than 900km from Bamako. – (Guardian service)