Neighbor states get tough after Mali coup
Could cut off access to cash, gas after soldiers seized power
BAMAKO, MALI | The heads of state of countries neighboring Mali said Tuesday that they want to send a “strong signal” to the mutinous soldiers who seized power last week, overturning more than 20 years of democracy in this West African nation.
Already, the United States, the European Union and France have cut off aid. Additional sanctions from the region would be a further blow to the junta.
The countries that control the common currency shared by Mali are all represented in another regional group, the Economic Community for West African States, which met Tuesday and could decide to cut off Mali’s supply of cash.
Also, if Ivory Coast shut its border, Mali would quickly run out of gasoline.
The chairman of the 15-nation Economic Community, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, called on his peers to send a message to the mutinous soldiers in Mali who charged through the capital, looting the presidential palace and sending into hiding the nation’s democratically elected president, Amadou Toumani Toure.
“Our position should consist of a number of actions that we carry out as quickly as possible. This position should be a strong signal, given from all of Africa and from the entire world,” Mr. Ouattara said.
The pending decision by the body comes after France suspended all government cooperation with Mali, except for humanitarian aid.
On Monday, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland in Washington announced that the U.S. was cutting off roughly half the $140 million in aid it gives Mali each year. She said military and other assistance would resume when the African country’s democratic government is restored.
Outside of the conference center in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, where the Economic Community meeting was in process, hundreds of demonstrators from Mali called on the delegation to take action.
“We do not recognize the soldiers as our leaders. We do not recognize them today, tomorrow or next year,” shouted Amadou Maga, a Malian who lives in Abidjan.
Mohammed Decko, the head of a Malian association, wearing a shirt with the image of Mr. Toure, said: “We want the soldiers back in their barracks. . . . This coup is putting Mali back 20 years.”
Mr. Toure, whose whereabouts since the coup remain unknown, began losing support when an al Qaeda-linked terrorist cell implanted itself in northern Mali in 2003. He is accused of turning a blind eye, while diplomatic cables suggest the government entered into a pact of nonaggression with the terrorists for fear they would strike the capital in revenge.
It was in January that Mr. Toure’s popularity hit a new low, after a Tuareg uprising began in the country’s north. Again Mr. Toure did not respond forcefully, and when he finally sent troops to fight the insurgents, they were ill-equipped. Some did not even have enough food.
The soldiers who led the attack last week said that it was Mr. Toure’s failure and incompetence in dealing with the 2-month-old insurgency that pushed them to seize power.
People in Mali wait outside a travel agency Tuesday to buy tickets. The country’s airport reopened almost a week after a military coup. The body representing nations in western Africa suspended Mali and put a peacekeeping force on standby.