Mali sol­diers grab power in coup; U.S. con­demns ouster of pres­i­dent

The Washington Times Daily - - World - BY BABA AHMED AND

BAMAKO, MALI | Drunken sol­diers looted Mali’s pres­i­den­tial palace hours af­ter they de­clared a coup Thurs­day, sus­pend­ing the con­sti­tu­tion and dis­solv­ing the in­sti­tu­tions of one of the few es­tab­lished democ­ra­cies in this trou­bled corner of Africa.

The where­abouts of 63-year-old Pres­i­dent Amadou Toumani Toure, who was just one month away from step­ping down af­ter a decade in of­fice, could not be con­firmed. The U.S. Em­bassy is­sued a state­ment dis­pelling ru­mors that he had sought refuge in its com­pound.

The scene in this nor­mally serene cap­i­tal was un­set­tling to those proud of Mali’s his­tory as one of the ma­ture democ­ra­cies in the re­gion. Sol­diers smelling of al­co­hol ripped flat-screen TVS, com­puter mon­i­tors, print­ers and pho­to­copiers out of the pres­i­den­tial palace, cart­ing them off in plain sight. Oth­ers in pickup trucks zoomed across the broad av­enues, hold­ing beer bot­tles in one hand and fir­ing au­to­matic weapons with the other.

The mu­ti­neers said they were over­throw­ing the gov­ern­ment be­cause of its mis­han­dling of an eth­nic Tuareg in­sur­gency in the coun­try’s north that be­gan in Jan­uary.

Tens of thou­sands of Malian civil­ians have been forced to flee. The sol­diers sent to fight the sep­a­ratists have been killed in large num­bers, of­ten


AL­GE­RIA af­ter be­ing sent to the bat­tle­field with in­ad­e­quate arms and food sup­plies, prompt­ing fierce crit­i­cism of the gov­ern­ment.

The coup be­gan Wed­nes­day, af­ter young troops mu­tinied at a mil­i­tary camp near the cap­i­tal. The ri­ot­ing spread to a gar­ri­son thou­sands of miles away in the strate­gic north­ern town of Gao.

By evening, sol­diers had sur­rounded the state tele­vi­sion sta­tion in Bamako. At dawn Thurs­day, some 20 sol­diers hud­dled be­hind a ta­ble, fac­ing the cam­era. They in­tro­duced them­selves as the Na­tional Com­mit­tee for the Re-es­tab­lish­ment of Democ­racy and the Restora­tion of the State, known by its French ab­bre­vi­a­tion CNRDR.

“The CNRDR rep­re­sent­ing all the el­e­ments of the armed forces, de­fen­sive forces and se­cu­rity forces has de­cided to as­sume its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties and end the in­com­pe­tent and dis­avowed regime of Amadou Toumani Toure,” they said, read­ing from a state­ment.

“The ob­jec­tive of the CNRDR does not in any way aim to con­fis­cate power, and we solemnly swear to re­turn power to a demo­crat­i­cally elected pres­i­dent as soon as na­tional unity and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity are es­tab­lished.”

The sol­diers said they in­tend to hand over power to an elected gov­ern­ment, though they made no men­tion of the fact that elec­tions are sup­posed to be held on April 29.

Crit­i­cism of the coup was swift. France said it would sus­pend all gov­ern­ment co­op­er­a­tion with Mali, ex­cept for aid.

In Washington, State Depart­ment spokes­woman Vic­to­ria Nu­land said: “The United States con­demns the mil­i­tary seizure of power in Mali” and said the U.S. stands by Mr. Toure’s le­git­i­mately elected gov­ern­ment.

And the re­gional body rep­re­sent­ing coun­tries in the re­gion, the Eco­nomic Com­mu­nity of West African States, called the coup “rep­re­hen­si­ble.”

Mr. Allawi headed the Sunni-dom­i­nated Iraqiya bloc in Iraq’s 2010 elec­tions. The bloc won two more seats than Nouri al- Ma­liki’s State of Law al­liance, but Mr. al-ma­liki was able to form a gov­ern­ment un­der a 2011 pow­er­shar­ing deal.

That deal, which gave sev­eral min­istries to Iraqiya, was sup­posed to have given Mr. Allawi con­trol of a new strate­gic pol­icy coun­cil, but the for­mer premier de­clined the post when Mr. al-ma­liki re­fused to cede it much au­thor­ity de­spite what he called U.S. guar­an­tees.

“The pol­i­cy­mak­ers promised to sup­port this, but ul­ti­mately and un­for­tu­nately, none of this has hap­pened, and the United States for­got about this pow­er­shar­ing com­pletely,” Mr. Allawi said. “I think the United States de­lib­er­ately is tak­ing Iraq out of the screen be­cause there is a gross fail­ure in Iraq.”

State Depart­ment spokes­woman Vic­to­ria Nu­land said: “We strongly dis­agree with [Mr. Allawi’s] char­ac­ter­i­za­tion of our re­la­tion­ship with the gov­ern­ment of Iraq and the role we have played to keep the Iraqi po­lit­i­cal process on track.”

Ms. Nu­land said the U.S. Em­bassy in Bagh­dad con­tin­ues to work as a “bro­ker” in Iraq’s po­lit­i­cal realm and the U.S. re­mains com­mit­ted to help­ing cre­ate a “uni­fied, peace­ful and demo­cratic Iraq.”

The day af­ter U.S. troops left Iraq, ju­di­cial au­thor­i­ties there is­sued an ar­rest war­rant for an­other Iraqiya leader, Vice Pres­i­dent Tariq al-hashemi, on charges that he ran anti-shi­ite death squads dur­ing the blood­let­ting that fol­lowed the U.s.-led 2003 in­va­sion. Mr. alHashemi, who de­nies the charges, has taken refuge in the Kur­dish-con­trolled

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