Mali Parties Reject Junta’s Call for Convention

Posted April 4th, 2012 at 10:40 pm (UTC-5)
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Mali's main political parties have rejected a call by military junta leaders for a “national convention” to sort out the country's political and security problems.

The FDR coalition of 50 political parties and civil society groups released a statement Wednesday, saying such a convention is not compatible with a return to constitutional order.

Junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo had said the proposed meeting of political and civil society representatives could forge a consensus on how to deal with Mali's challenges.

“The conclusion of this convention should be accepted by everyone, in order to put a stop to internal political considerations and deal with the major challenge rapidly, meaning the challenge of the security situation in the north and the integrity of our national territory.”

Meanwhile, the junta Wednesday accused rebels of committing “grave rights violations” in the town of Gao. The town is one of several in the north that have fallen to Tuareg rebels and Islamist fighters in recent days.

The junta said women and girls in Gao have been kidnapped and raped.

Soldiers seized power from President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, accusing him of failing to equip the army to fight the rebels. The international community has called for coup leaders to return the country to civilian rule.

Cheick Traore, the leader of the African Convergence for Renewal party in Mali, told VOA he wants to see the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) help foster dialogue between civilians and the military to find a “true solution” to the crisis.

He criticized the West African bloc for sanctions it imposed on Mali Monday, saying they will not hurt the coup leaders. Those measures include include closing all borders between Mali and members states, and cutting off currency flow to the country.

“What do they have? These are young officers. Some of them do not even have a bank account. So you put the sanctions on them. It's Malians who will be suffering, not them. And second, it's not by doing that that they will relinquish power. They did the coup d'etat based on what was happening in our society.”

Traore said he did not support the coup, but that the government cannot send soldiers to fight “without giving them the equipment to fight.” He was one of the candidates running in a presidential election originally scheduled for later this month until the coup derailed the vote.

The African Union has also imposed sanctions against the coup leader and allies the bloc says are helping prevent the return of constitutional order.

Tuareg rebels launched an offensive on Friday and rapidly seized three key cities that were still under army control.

An Islamist militant group called Ansar Dine has also entered some areas and started imposing Sharia, or Islamic law. Ansar Dine has been linked to the al-Qaida branch in northern Africa known as al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb, or AQIM.

The heavily armed rebels arrived in northern Mali after the fall of neighboring Libya and launched an insurgency in mid-January. Tuareg separatists have been seeking autonomy for decades.

On Tuesday, the United Nations said at least 200,000 people have fled the unrest in northern Mali, roughly half of them seeking refuge in neighboring Burkina Faso and Mauritania.