- Associated Press - Sunday, April 1, 2012

BAMAKO, MALIThe junior officer who overthrew Mali’s democratically elected leader last month and dissolved the nation’s constitution made a public U-turn on Sunday, declaring amid enormous international pressure that he was reinstating the 1992 constitution and planning to hold elections.

Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo added that he would organize a national convention to agree on a transitional government that will organize free and fair elections.

What he did not make clear is when the convention would be held, or when elections would take place, or if he would remain president during the transitional period.

Capt. Sanogo’s announcement came as Tuareg rebels penetrated the ancient northern city of Timbuktu, a move that deepens the crisis in the West African nation.

Tuareg rebels took advantage of the chaos surrounding last month’s coup in the faraway capital to take the town of Kidal, located 800 miles from Bamako, on Friday. They seized the biggest northern city of Gao, located about 745 miles away, on Saturday. Both were cities that never fell in previous rebellions.

A resident in Timbuktu said the rebels entered the town after a heavy firefight, and were going house to house asking people to remain calm.

Mali, once a model democracy, was plunged into crisis March 21, when a mutiny erupted at the Kati military camp about 6 miles from the presidential palace.

The 30-something Capt. Sanogo was one of the few officers who didn’t flee the camp when the rank-and-file soldiers began rioting, and he quickly became their leader as they broke into the camp’s armory, grabbed automatic weapons and headed for the seat of government.

His coup reversed 21 years of democracy, and sent President Amadou Toumani Toure into hiding. Mr. Toure was due to step down after the presidential election, which was scheduled to take place at the end of this month.

Mali’s neighbors had given the country a 72-hour deadline to restore constitutional order, or else face crippling sanctions.

Capt. Sanogo’s declaration appears intended to stave off the sanctions, which were due to take effect Monday.

A senior adviser to the president of neighboring Ivory Coast said that the regional body representing states in West Africa was considering calling off the sanctions for one week. The information was confirmed by a diplomat from Burkina Faso, the country that is taking the lead in mediating the crisis.



Click to Read More

Click to Hide