Malians Split Over Junta as Opposition Abroad Mounts

Posted March 28th, 2012 at 11:30 am (UTC-5)
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Thousands of people marched in Mali's capital Wednesday to show support for the country's military junta, even as international opposition mounts against the coup leaders.

Malians appear divided about last week's coup, which has drawn international condemnation and demands for the restoration of constitutional order.

In the latest response to the coup, the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has threatened sanctions and possible military action if necessary.

The regional bloc says it will dispatch at least five heads of state to Mali by Thursday to negotiate a return for democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Touré and his government.

After an emergency meeting on Tuesday, the 15-member group said it is considering “all options” and that a peacekeeping force is ready for deployment.

Spokesman Sonny Ugoh told VOA that coups will not be tolerated.

“We want make them as uncomfortable as possible. We want to demonstrate to them that there can be no reward for this kind of behavior, not just in their own case, but also as an example to others who might want to tow this line of adventurism, to discourage such behavior.”

He said the group believes the junta will cede under pressure.

Mutinous soldiers seized power six days ago, accusing President Touré of mishandling the country's response to an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the north.

President Toure was due to step down in the coming weeks after serving two terms.

On Tuesday, the coup leaders announced a new constitution which gave power to a 42-member, ad-hoc commission made up largely of military officials. The junta said members will not be able to run for political office. They did not announce an election date.

U.S. Deputy Ambassador Peter Henry Balerin told VOA he had spoken to coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo, urging him to immediately return power to Mali's elected leaders and to allow elections to be held as soon as possible.

Balerin said he also reminded Sanogo the United States will only help the Malian military if power is returned to civilian authorities.

“And I explained to him that, unfortunately, there are things he wanted, and some are legitimate, that Malian soldiers be well-trained and well-equipped. And the U.S. is Mali's number one partner in this domain. So if he wants the soldiers to be better trained and better equipped, he must absolutely cede power so that the U.S., France, and other partners could continue their programs supplying training and equipment.


The new leaders issued a call for negotiations with the Tuaregs, but a top rebel leader told VOA Tuesday they would only consider opening the discussion if Malian troops leave the three main cities in the territory the rebels claim .

Abdoul Karim Ag Matafa, president of the MNLA revolutionary council, also said the core of any negotiations would be self-determination for northern Mali.

“The only basis for negotiations is the self-determination of Azawad .”