Struggle for Control of Mali

Since former-President of Mali Amadou Toumani Toure was ejected from power March 22 as the result of a military coup the country has fallen into chaos as various factions have struggled to fill the power gap. Toure has officially resigned and this begins the process of formaly forming an interim government. Per the stipulations of the constitution of Mali, President of the National Assembly Diouncounda Traore, 70, will be named interim President.

Mali is no stranger to civil strife as half of the country is under control of the Tuaregs who declare themselves citizens of the state of Azawad – a country that is recognized by none other than the Tuaregs themselves. Traore has sworn to fight a ‘total war’ against them to maintain Mali’s territorial integrity.

The military junta that ousted former President Toure, led by Capt. Amadou Sanogo, was heavily involved in the transfer of power to the interim government and will likely be given key positions in the new government. Sanogo was pressured by many international states to transfer power over to an interim government following the fall of Toure’s government.

The difficulty of wresting control of the northern regions from the Tuaregs, coupled with the presence of al-Qaeda in Azawad, has given interim President Traore incentives to offer to begin negotiations with the groups excepting al-Qaeda. However, under the transitional government agreement negotiated with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Traore’s main task is to guide Mali’s return to democratic rule – an objective directly complicated by the presence of the Tuareg separatist movement.

Mali’s interim Prime Minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, has formed a cabinet consisting of technocrats and military representatives that were close to the coup that toppled former president Toure. Diarra is a former chairman of Microsoft for Africa and has emphasized non-political backgrounds in his choices for cabinet ministers.

Col. Yamoussa Camara, Col. Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, and Gen. Tiefing Konate will be defence, interior, and civil protection ministers respectively while the new foreign minister will be Sadio Lamine Sow, Tiena Colibaly as minister of the economy, finance, and budget and, finally, Mamadou Namory Traore will serve as the minister of civil service and political reforms.

On May 1, troops loyal to former president Toure attacked those who had staged the coup, killing several people in Bamako. Tensions flared over the attempted arrest of presidential guardsmen by Sanogo’s troops – specifically a guardsman from the ‘Red Berets,’ a group that were loyal to Toure until the end and only reluctantly submitted to the interim government.

This struggle grew into an attempted counter-coup by the Toure-loyalists, an attempt that was thwarted by the junta’s troops. At one point, Sanogo’s troops aired messages over state television alerting the people that they were still in control of certain key sites in the capital city.

Heavy gunfire was reported throughout the capital, and reports indicate that the Toure-loyalists enjoyed the support of local militias in combating the junta’s troops. Ultimately the chaos claimed 14 lives with casualties on both sides. While the counter-coup attempt is defeated for now, tensions remain high within the nation of Mali and uncertainty governs the day.

Meanwhile, the Tuareg separatists have taken advantage of the unrest to seize control of important towns in the north and retrench their control over that region.



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