NewsWest AfricaMali's junta caught between a rock and a hard place


Posted on Monday, 02 April 2012 11:11

Mali's junta caught between a rock and a hard place

By Konye Obaji Ori

As the international community puts pressure on Mali's military junta leader, Amadou Sanogo to return the West African nation to a democracy, the northern secessionist Tuareg rebellion is gaining ground and control.

Junta leader, Sanogo has reinstated the 1992 constitution and promised to hold elections/Photo/ReutersFacing pressure from regional and international powers Sanogo, who overthrew Mali's democratically elected leader earlier this month, on Sunday reinstated the 1992 constitution and plans to hold elections. The junta leader also promised a national convention for a transitional government ahead of the elections. No dates have so far been provided.

Sanogo had dissolved the nation's constitution days after he emerged as leader of a mutiny that erupted at the Kati Military Camp when soldiers broke into the barrack's armoury, grabbed automatic weapons and headed for the seat of government.

The soldiers were protesting against what they said was as a poorly run military campaign against secessionist northern Tuareg rebels who had accumulated military firepower after firghting for Gaddafi and returned to Mali, heavily armed and skilled.

But since the overthrow of the country's constitutional govenrment, the northern rebellion is growing unaddressed. Tuareg rebels have expanded their control to include the historic city of Timbuktu as the international community emphasises on the restoration of Mali's democracy.

The Malian army mutiny and the resulting coup had taken attention away from the Tuareg expansion.

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The capture of Timbuktu came hours after the rebels took the garrison town of Gao following a withdrawal by Malian army forces. "[Tuareg rebels] have arrived in the town. They are planting their flag," El Hadj Baba Haidara, a member of parliament for Timbuktu, told the Reuters news agency on Sunday.

Tuareg rebels fight under the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) - decades-long military campaign for a separate homeland. Reuters gathered that the rebels had planted their flag at the governor and mayor's offices and the main military camp.

The fight for Azawad was re-launched in mid-January and has since seized Kidal, another key town in the north.

And while the international community focuses on installing democracy, the Tuareg rebels have claimed more than a third of the country. The Economic Community of West African States, (Ecowas) had asked Sanogo to start handing over power or face sanctions.

"This is what Ecowas demands, that the constitutional order be re-established. And if the junta is now accepting this plan we do not see any other difficulty, we are ready to accompany them to restore normality and then we will see how to deal with the situation in the north," Ecowas president, Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, told reporters.

Ecowas has called for a Tuareg ceasefire and Ouedraogo told reporters that an offer of negotiations has been offered to the Tuareg rebels. But in case they declined the offer, Ouedraogo says "Ecowas will use any other means to protect the territorial integrity of Mali."

Last Updated on Monday, 02 April 2012 12:29

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