UN Security Council Condemns Mali Coup

Posted March 22nd, 2012 at 8:05 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 on 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.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged those responsible to refrain from actions that could increase violence and further destabilize the country.

On Thursday, a group of 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.

Following the overthrow, the United States said it is considering a cutoff in non-humanitarian aid to Mali, including economic, security and anti-terrorism funding.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the U.S. stands with President Toure's legitimately elected government.

“The United States condemns the military seizure of power in Mali. We echo the statements of the African Union, of ECOWAS , and of other international partners in denouncing these actions. We've called for calm. We've called for restoration of the civilian government under constitutional rule without delay, so that the elections can proceed as scheduled.”

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 president's whereabouts is not clear, although media reports say he is being protected by his presidential guard at an army camp. The U.S. embassy said Mr. Toure is not there or at any other U.S. government residence.

Leanne Cannon, the embassy's assistant public affairs officer, told VOA that the capital, Bamako, was largely quiet by Thursday evening but that sporadic gunfire could be heard.

The coup took place just a few weeks before the president was due to step down at the end of his second term. Mali is due to hold elections next month.

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.

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.

Kasim Traore, a VOA reporter in the capital, Bamako, said the soldiers pledged to hold elections once national unity is restored and territorial integrity is re-established.

“The long night has ended with a group of soldiers making a declaration on national television — the national television station that was occupied by soldiers Wednesday morning — and they declared they had ended the regime of Amadou Toumani Toure, and put in place the “National Committee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of State,” following an attack at the presidential palace and following the protest at the Kati military camp, directed by Captain Amadou Aya Sanogo. The captain told the population to stay calm and said the committee does not have any ambitions to hold on to power. ”

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 both Mali and Niger.