Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Malian Ousted President's Asylum Shakes Up Country Left Behind

Mali: Ex-President's Asylum Shakes Up Country Left Behind

By Aminata Mariko
24 April 2012

Bamako — The exile of former Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré to Senegal has precipitated intense upheavals in his home country.

The 63 year old and his family, alongside Senegal's Minister of Foreign Affairs Alioune Badara Cisse, boarded the Senegalese presidential plane on Thursday, say sources in Mali and Senegal.

Touré's political asylum is sharply criticised by many Malians, who believe it was pre-mediated. According to several sources, the former president was confronted at the Bamako airport with dissatisfied soldiers seeking to oppose his departure. A military source says the Touré family left Mali "with the consent of Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo", the leader of putschists who were initially opposed to his going abroad.


Touré's departure from Bamako coincides with the release of 22 civilian and military officials who were arrested early last week. According to the gendarmerie, the individuals remain under investigation and subject to prosecution for claims that weapons were found in some of their homes.

Those arrested include former Prime Minister Modibo Sidibé, former Minister Soumaïla Cissé, MP Kassoum Tapo and leader of the Union for Democracy and Development (UDD) party Tieman Coulibaly.

Though the head of the gendarmerie has denied accusations of witch hunting, members of Mali's political class believe the military is instituting a regime of terror.

"This is a deliberate plan to intimidate us and maintain power in Kati," thundered forth an unnamed leader of the opposition movement holding a sitting outside the hotel where interim President Dioncounda Traoré is lodging.

Anger and protest

The wave of arrests has caused anger and protest within the country and abroad. Malians close to those arrested, including members of the Front uni pour la république et la démocratie (United Front for the Republic and Democracy), are worried. So are ordinary citizens, who do not understand these recent developments, ensuing after Mali signed a framework agreement with ECOWAS and the junta began.

Seydou Cissako, a lawyer in Bamako, believes there is a diarchy at the top of the state that must be addressed: interim President Traoré and Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra versus the junta, still governing everything in Mali.

Meanwhile, the new Prime Minister, who gave his first official speech to the nation on Friday, continues carrying out consultations. Diarra hopes that creating a competent team will help him quickly mark his territory. Yet between the discourse and the actual margin of manoeuvre in the field - where Tuareg and jihadists strut about to their hearts' content - lies an abysmal gap.

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