[ 2012-04-07 ]
Mali junta agree to stand down in amnesty deal
BAMAKO (AFP) - Mali's military junta and the West
African bloc ECOWAS have announced a deal that
includes the lifting of sanctions and an amnesty
for those involved in last month's coup.
The agreement provides a framework for a return to
constitutional rule under an interim leader who
will oversee democratic elections and handle the
crisis in the north, where Islamists and Tuareg
rebels have seized control.
It came after Mali's Tuareg rebels declared
independence Friday in the north, a move rejected
by the international community and the Islamist
insurgents they fought beside, as fears grew of a
The United States, Africa and Europe dismissed the
National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad's
(MNLA's) declaration of independence.
The declaration, long a goal of Tuareg rebels, is
a bid to formalise the situation on the ground.
A democratic success since its last coup 21 years
ago, Mali is now roughly divided into a Tuareg
rebel-controlled north and junta-controlled
ECOWAS chief Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast said
sanctions should be lifted "immediately", Burkina
Faso's Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole told
public television station ORTM, referring to
He also said President Amadou Toumani Toure, who
was overthrown on March 22 and has not been seen
since in public, should be able to live where he
wants under army protection.
Bassole, speaking on behalf of ECOWAS Mali
negotiator Blaise Compaore, the president of
Burkina Faso, said: "We wanted... Toure to be
allowed to return to the house of his choice and
that he could also be protected by the defence and
He was speaking at Kati near Bamako, the
headquarters of the junta, whose head, Captain
Amadou Sanogo, read out the accord signed with the
Economic Community of West African States
At the same place coup leader Sanogo had announced
Tuesday that the junta planned legal action
against Toure for "high treason and
The text of the deal was signed by Bassole and
Sanogo, with Ivorian Minister for African
Integration Adama Bictogo and Nigeria's Foreign
Minister Nurudeen Muhammad as witnesses.
Under the agreement, to be carried out "under the
aegis of the ECOWAS mediator and with the support
of the international community," the speaker of
the national assembly would become interim
president with a transitional prime minister and
The single-chamber Malian parliament is headed by
Dioncounda Traore, who is currently abroad.
The accord states that the interim president would
have "a mission to organise a presidential
election in the constitutional timeframe of 40
However, given the "exceptional circumstances...
due to the institutional crisis and the armed
rebellion in the north" it would be impossible to
hold elections within 40 days and so it was
"indispensable to organise a political transition"
until electoral lists could be revised and
"accepted by all."
On April 2 ECOWAS decided to clamp an immediate
total embargo on Mali, a north African country of
15 million inhabitants, in a bid to return to
constitutional order after the March 22 military
The embargo included the closing of all borders of
ECOWAS states with Mali except for humanitarian
reasons, closing to Mali access to ECOWAS ports,
and the freezing of Malian bank accounts.
Complicating the picture in the African nation, a
radical Islamist group, Ansar Dine, has exploited
the chaos to swoop in and instal sharia law in
parts of the north.
While for a time the Islamists fought in concert
with the MNLA, they have given short shrift to
their independence plans.
"Our war is a holy war," Ansar Dine military chief
Omar Hamaha said.
"It's a legal war in the name of Islam. We are
against rebellions. We are against independence.
We are against revolutions not in the name of
Hamaha was speaking in a video obtained by AFP and
France 2 television, filmed on Tuesday and
Wednesday after the Islamists' takeover of the
fabled city of Timbuktu.
In the city of Gao, witnesses said Ansar Dine had
kidnapped seven Algerian diplomats, reports
confirmed by the Algerian foreign ministry.
While the Islamists appeared to have the upper
hand, the separatist MNLA on Friday morning
declared the independence of their desert
homeland, which they call Azawad, and where
several rebellions have played out in past
This latest one was fuelled by a flood of weapons
-- and returning Tuareg fighters -- from Libya
following Moamer Kadhafi's downfall.
"We solemnly proclaim the independence of Azawad
as from today," Mossa Ag Attaher, a Paris-based
MNLA spokesman said on France 24 television,
confirming a statement on the group's website.
He told AFP the group was ready to help fight the
"terrorism" of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
But the international community swiftly rejected
The African Union dismissed it as "null and of no
value whatsoever", while the European Union and
United States both called for respect of Mali's
Amnesty International warned that north Mali was
on the brink of a "major humanitarian disaster".
More than 200,000 people have fled since the
rebellion began in mid-January.
Source - AFP
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