Mali’s Deposed Leader Speaks

Posted March 28th, 2012 at 8:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Mali's deposed leader Amadou Toumani Touré finally broke his silence Wednesday, reassuring the public that he is not in detention.

In phone calls with reporters from an undisclosed location, Touré said he is in Mali and is free. He told the French news agency that he is in the capital, Bamako. He said it is important that the country's political crisis come to an end.

Touré was ousted in a coup last week and his location has been unknown since then, leading to fears the mutinous soldiers who brought him down had kept him in custody. The soldiers accuse President Touré of mishandling the country's response to an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the north.

The men who brought down the democratically elected leader have drawn international criticism for their seizure of power.

The Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, has threatened sanctions on the new junta 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 Mr. Touré and his government. It said Tuesday it has a peacekeeping force ready for deployment.

ECOWAS 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 toe this line of adventurism, to discourage such behavior.”

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

But thousands of people marched in Bamako Wednesday to show support for the junta, even as the international opposition mounted.

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

On Tuesday, the coup leaders announced a new constitution that 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 .”