3/22/2012

US Joins Condemnation of Mali Coup

VOA

The United States is considering a cutoff in non-humanitarian aid to Mali after the apparent overthrow of Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure by mutinous soldiers.
The U.S. State Department says federal agencies will meet Thursday to discuss the future of about $140 million in economic, security, and anti-terrorism funding. Humanitarian aid would not be affected.
Spokewoman Victoria Nuland says the United States stands with the legitimately elected government of President Toure.
“The United States condemns the military seizure of power in Mali. We echo the statements of the African Union, of ECOWAS , and of other international partners in denouncing these actions. We've called for calm. We've called for restoration of the civilian government under constitutional rule without delay, so that the elections can proceed as scheduled.”
The European Union has also condemned the takeover, while United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged those responsible to refrain from actions that could increase violence and further destabilize the country.
On Thursday, a group of soldiers declared a coup d'etat on Malian television, after seizing control of state broadcasting services and the presidential palace.
The soldiers say they acted because of the president's incompetence in fighting a rebellion by ethnic Tuaregs in Mali's north.
The chairman of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, strongly condemned the rebellion and said it has “no justification whatsoever.”
The European Union is calling for constitutional rule to be re-established as soon as possible. Former colonial power France said it is suspending cooperation with Mali, while urging that President Toure not be harmed.
The president's whereabouts is not clear, although some media reports say he is being protected by his presidential guard at an army camp.
The U.S. embassy released a statement saying Mr. Toure is not there or at any other U.S. government residence.
Leanne Cannon, the embassy's assistant public affairs officer, told VOA that the capital, Bamako, was largely quiet by Thursday evening but that sporadic gunfire could still be heard.
The apparent coup took place just a few weeks before the president was due to step down at the end of his second term. Mali is due to hold elections next month.
Soldiers and their families had expressed increasing frustration with the president and what they considered a lack of weapons to fight the Tuareg rebels. The rebels have taken over several towns in the north and the fighting has forced tens of thousands of Malians to flee their homes.
The coup leaders announced Thursday they were closing the country's borders, had suspended the constitution and created a new committee to rule the country.
Kasim Traore, a VOA reporter in the capital, Bamako, said the soldiers pledged to hold elections once national unity is restored and territorial integrity is re-established.
“The long night has ended with a group of soldiers making a declaration on national television — the national television station that was occupied by soldiers Wednesday morning — and they declared they had ended the regime of Amadou Toumani Toure, and put in place the “National Committee for the Recovery of Democracy and the Restoration of State,” following an attack at the presidential palace and following the protest at the Kati military camp, directed by Captain Amadou Aya Sanogo. The captain told the population to stay calm and said the committee does not have any ambitions to hold on to power. ”
Tuareg separatists started attacking army bases in Mali's desert in January, after many Tuareg fighters returned from Libya, where they had assisted ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. The United Nations refugee agency says the conflict has uprooted 130,000 people in and around Mali. Many soldiers have died in the conflict.
Tuareg nomads have launched periodic uprisings for greater autonomy in both Mali and Niger.