What's In Blue

Posted Thu 22 Mar 2012

Briefing on the Mali Military Mutiny

This afternoon (Thursday, 22 March) the Council will be briefed by DPA head, B. Lynn Pascoe, on the situation in Mali after junior officers announced that they had seized control of the country this morning. President Amadou Toumani Touré appears to have been overthrown ahead of presidential elections scheduled for 29 April. (Touré had announced he was stepping down and would not participate in the elections.) It seems that Council members may also be looking at the possibility of issuing a press statement. At press time a draft text had not been circulated to Council members but it is likely that the press statement would condemn the actions of the soldiers and call for the reinstatement of Touré.

Following the announcement, a curfew was apparently imposed, institutions dissolved and the constitution suspended. The soldiers, led by Lt. Amadou Konare, have accused the government of incompetence in combating a spreading rebellion by the Tuareg in the north of the country. (The Tuareg are a largely nomadic group in northern Mali, as well as in southeastern Algeria, southwestern Libya, northern Burkina Faso, Niger and northern Nigeria.)

The Tuareg, under the banner of the Mouvement national pour la libération de l’Azawad, launched a major offensive in January, having returned to Mali late in 2011 after defending Bani Walid, the last stronghold of forces loyal to the late Libyan leader, Muammar Qaddafi. According to a UN report 30,000 Malian migrant workers also returned to Mali from Libya in desperate conditions adding to an already tense situation. By February, the rebels had briefly taken over the remote military base in Aguelhok, reportedly killing over 80 captured soldiers. The situation was further destabilised by attacks and kidnappings reportedly by Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb.

The Council has been following this issue closely in recent months. In December, Council members were briefed by Pascoe on the UN inter-agency assessment mission that was jointly sent by the UN and AU to the Sahel region from 7 to 23 December 2011. (The mission assessed the impact of the Libya crisis on Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania.) On 16 January, the head of the UN Office for West Africa, Said Djinnit, briefed on the growing insecurity in the Sahel region, in particular Mali, Mauritania and Niger, due to the return of armed elements from Libya. The situation in Mali was also covered in Pascoe’s January briefing on the impact of the Libyan crisis on the Sahel. The 10 February DPA briefing and the 21 February debate on the impact of transnational organised crime on security and stability in West Africa and the Sahel region also highlighted the fragile situation in Mali. And it appears that although it was not on the original agenda, Mali was brought up in the DPA briefing on emerging issues on 6 March.

The AU chairperson, Jean Ping, issued a statement today strongly condemning the military takeover and calling for the restoration of constitutional order. (The Constitutive Acts of the AU asserts that all unconstitutional changes of government should be rejected by the African regional body.) The mutiny has also been strongly condemned by ECOWAS and the EU. The Secretary-General also issued a statement today calling for calm and a peaceful resolution to the grievances of the mutinous soldiers.

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