Africa, Headlines

Mali Junta Courts Civil Society

Soumaila T. Diarra

BAMAKO, Mar 23 2012 (IPS) - A majority of political representatives have so far maintained their distance from the leaders of a coup that toppled the government earlier this week, but several religious and political personalities have already shown a willingness to work with the new regime.

After their successful move against President Amadou Toumani Touré beginning on Wednesday evening, Mali’s new authorities have reached out to political parties and civil society.

Captain Amadou Sanogo, president of the newly-formed National Committee for the Reinstatement of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDRE), met with several prominent civil society figures just hours after the announcement of the coup d’état on national television on Thursday Mar. 22.

These personalities included the president of the country’s High Council of Islam, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, who said on television that the coup leaders had assured him they want to work with all groupings in the country.

One of the first political parties to express support for the new regime is African Solidarity for Democracy and Independence (SADI), whose leader, Dr Oumar Mariko, confirmed his stance in a statement read out on television. He declared himself ready to participate in a government of national unity formed by the junta.

Other political leaders and several civil society organisations have also supported the military junta.

The coup was carried out by soldiers from the Kati military base, 15 kilometres outside Bamako, the capital. Starting with a mutiny on Wednesday evening, they then seized control of the headquarters of Mali’s national broadcaster and the airport, before going on to attack the president’s residence, where guards initially put up resistance.

But Toumani Touré had left the presidential palace before their arrival, and his whereabouts were unknown as of Friday.

Several ministers in the overthrown government have been arrested, including Prime Minister Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé, Minister for Foreign Affairs Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, Minister for Territorial Administration General Kafougouna Koné, as well as Minister of Defence General Sadio Gassama.

Others in custody include two candidates in the presidential elections scheduled for Apr. 29: a former prime minister, Modibo Sidibé, and Jeamille Bittar, the president of the Economic and Social Council.

The new authorities promise the prisoners will be treated well. “But while I remain at the head of this movement, they will have to answer to a competent court for their actions,” Captain Sanogo said on television on Thursday.

The coup plotters are not well known in Mali and did not hold important positions in the military command. Of the twenty-odd members of the CNRDRE, the most senior soldiers are Captain Sanogo and Lieutenant Amadou Konaré, the group’s spokesman.

In a statement read out on national television, Lieutenant Konaré justified the coup as a response to “inaction” by the “incompetent” regime of Toumani Touré and to his failure to provide the army with adequate resources to fight terrorism and the Tuareg rebellion in the north of the country.

While calling on the armed forces and security services fighting the Tuareg rebels to continue with the battle in the north, the soldiers asked their brothers in arms in other garrisons to join them. They also ordered civil servants to return to work on Tuesday Mar. 27.

Despite the flight of Toumani Touré (often referred to by his initials, ATT), shots were heard in different parts of the Malian capital through the night on Thursday and into Friday.

“Amadou Sanogo is the new President of the Republic, but other soldiers still support ATT,” Samba Guido, a resident of the capital’s Baco Djicorni neighbourhood, told IPS.

While the mandate of the former president would have ended on Jun. 8, many residents of the city do not seem surprised by the coup after the reverses faced by the army in battle against rebels in the north.

Younouss Hamèye Dicko, a politician who supported Toumani Touré in 2002, said that the lack of decisive action against the Tuareg rebellion had proved fatal for the former government, which he said failed to take timely measures to resolve the problem of insecurity in the north.

A spokesperson for the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which has waged a war for the independence of the north of Mali since January, welcomed the coup on Thursday.

But there has been no contact between the new authorities and the Tuareg rebels.

“The MNLA will continue its offensive to dislodge the Malian army and its administration from all the cities of Azawad, the natural region of Mali and birthplace of the Tuareg,” stated the Tuareg website Temoust ( on Friday.

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