UN Chief Urges Swift Transfer of Power in Mali

Posted April 8th, 2012 at 1:15 am (UTC-5)
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U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is urging Mali's military junta to quickly carry out the accord signed with West African leaders to transfer power back to civilian leaders.

A U.N. statement late Saturday said Mr. Ban also called on the junta to refrain from any activities that would undermine the tenets of the agreement with the 15-member Economic Community of West African States – ECOWAS.

Mali's interim president arrived Saturday in the capital, Bamako. Former speaker of parliament Dioncounda Traore, who was in temporary exile in neighboring Burkina Faso, will serve as president with a transitional government until elections are held.

Military coup leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, has said the junta is stepping aside for an interim government of national unity in return for amnesty and the lifting of trade and other sanctions ECOWAS imposed on the landlocked nation.

The deal to end the coup, which took place March 22, was reached late Friday.

ECOWAS has pledged to help Mali fight the Tuareg rebels who have seized much of the country's north and proclaimed an independent state there following the military coup. The coup leaders justified their takeover by denouncing what they said was the former government's ineffectual campaign to suppress the Tuareg rebellion.

Mali's neighbors all criticized the military takeover and the removal of President Amadou Toumani Toure. They also oppose the new “Azawad” state declared by the northern rebels.

In the rebels' advance against the Malian army and seizure of Timbuktu and other areas, the Tuaregs have been fighting alongside members of the radical Islamist group Ansar Dine.

The self-styled National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad controls Timbuktu, Gao city and other areas in the north. It declared itself independent Friday and said its military campaign was over. The heavily armed Tuaregs, formerly based in Moammar Gadhafi's Libya, began fighting in northern Mali in mid-January.

There has been nearly unanimous international rejection of the MNLA rebels' proclamation. In addition to ECOWAS and other African states, the United States, France and other European powers have said they do not recognize Azawad.

Under the agreement to end the coup, President Toure – who has been in hiding since the coup – is entitled to live in safety wherever he chooses. He was ousted just months before a scheduled presidential election when he was due to step down.