UN Security Council Condemns Mali Coup

Posted March 22nd, 2012 at 11:50 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.N. Security Council has condemned mutinous Malian soldiers for their “forcible seizure of power” from Mali's democratically elected government.

In a statement late Thursday, the Council called for the soldiers to ensure the safety of President Amadou Toumani Toure and to return to their barracks. The U.N. body also demanded the release of all Malian officials, and the immediate restoration of constitutional rule and Mali's government.

The apparent leader of the mutiny, Captain Amadou Sanogo, said on state television Thursday the president and the arrested ministers are safe and will not be harmed.

“They are well and fine. I will assure you we will not harm the physical integrity of anyone, but I will assure you that while I am in charge of this movement and, in conjunction with civil society, they will face the competent authorities in full view of the Malian people.''

President Toure's location is not clear, but media reports say he is being protected by his presidential guard at an army camp.

On Thursday, renegade soldiers declared a coup d'etat on Malian television, after seizing control of state broadcasting services and the presidential palace. The soldiers said they acted because of the president's incompetence in fighting a rebellion by ethnic Tuaregs in Mali's north.

The coup took place just a few weeks before the president was due to step down at the end of his second term. Elections are scheduled for next month.

Sonny Ugoh, an official with regional bloc ECOWAS, told VOA Thursday the coup heightens insecurity in Mali. Ugoh said ECOWAS had been working with Mali's leaders to try to negotiate an end to the Tuareg uprising.

“The president of the commission just led a fact-finding mission that returned from Mali where they held consultations, all with the intention of starting a process that would hopefully lead to a negotiated resolution of the crisis in the north of Mali.”

International condemnation of the coup is pouring in. The United States said it is considering a cutoff in non-humanitarian aid to Mali, including economic, security and anti-terrorism funding. The European Union also condemned the takeover and called for constitutional rule to be re-established as soon as possible. Former colonial power France said it is suspending cooperation with Mali and urged that President Toure not be harmed.

The coup leaders announced Thursday they were closing the country's borders, had suspended the constitution and created a new committee to rule the country. The soldiers pledged to hold elections once national unity is restored and territorial integrity is re-established.

Soldiers and their families had expressed increasing frustration with the president and what they considered a lack of weapons to fight the Tuareg rebels. The rebels have taken over several towns in the north and the fighting has forced tens of thousands of Malians to flee their homes.

Tuareg separatists started attacking army bases in Mali's desert in January, after many Tuareg fighters returned from Libya, where they had assisted ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The United Nations refugee agency says the conflict has uprooted 130,000 people in and around Mali. Many soldiers have died in the conflict.

Tuareg nomads have launched periodic uprisings for greater autonomy in Mali and Niger.