US: Mali, Guinea-Bissau Must Return to Civilian Rule

Posted May 16th, 2012 at 3:35 pm (UTC-5)
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The United States has urged military leaders in Mali and Guinea Bissau to agree to West African demands and return their countries to democratic rule following recent military coups.

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson said Wednesday a strong regional response by the Economic Community of West African States makes clear that “military misadventures” have no future. In a conference call with African reporters, Carson also said Washington fully supports ECOWAS mediation to help both countries return to democracy.

Speaking of Guinea-Bissau, Carson expressed a deep concern about the country. He said he is concerned not only because of last month's coup but also because the military leaders continue to exercise authority behind the scenes.

Meanwhile, Amnesty International says Mali is facing its worst crisis since independence in 1960. In a report published Wednesday, the British-based human rights group says the north has been taken over by rebel groups who the group describes as “running riot.”

The report says population displacement, food shortages and human rights abuses — including sexual violence, murder and use of children as combatants — have thrown the country into crisis after two decades of relative stability and peace.

The study also says there is evidence that an armed Islamist group in the region is using child soldiers and forcing citizens to comply with its radical interpretation of Islamic law.

The armed groups took control of northern Mali following a March coup by renegade soldiers who accused the government of failing to properly equip the army to handle the rebellion.

Since then, Mali's interim government has been unable to focus on the crisis in the north, which has displaced tens of thousands of people.