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