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Thousands march in support of Mali's military regime

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2012-03-28

Despite international condemnation of the coup d’état that deposed President Amadou Toumani Touré last week, thousands marched in Mali on Wednesday in support of the military rulers. The regime vowed to play no role in upcoming elections.

AFP - Thousands marched on Wednesday in support of Mali's coup leaders, who sought to quell fears they plan to cling to power by promising democracy and ruling out taking part in elections.

The international community has shunned the regime which took over after a mutiny a week ago turned into a full-blown putsch as soldiers seized government buildings and chased out President Amadou Toumani Toure.

The mutineers – who say they rebelled because they are angered by the government's mishandling of a northern Tuareg rebellion – suspended elections planned for April 29 and have not named a new poll date.

Tuareg rebels to continue independence fight

AFP - Mali's Tuareg rebels will press on with their bid to take over the country's north, which sparked a coup by soldiers angry at the government's handling of the conflict, a statement on their website said.

They "will continue the offensive to dislodge the Malian army and its administration from all the towns of Azawad" - the name for their professed homeland in the northern triangle of the bow-tie shaped nation, it said.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay urged Mali to follow the lead of neighbouring Senegal, which just wrapped up a peaceful transfer of power, and to hold free, fair and transparent elections.

"Mali also had a good record of democratic elections over the past two decades, and I hope it gets back on that track as soon as possible," said Pillay.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Tuesday suspended Mali "until its return to constitutional order", following in the footsteps of the African Union which has also shut out the junta.

Regional strongman Blaise Compaore, president of Burkina Faso, has been tasked by ECOWAS with leading a mediation team of six heads of state to Bamako which is expected to arrive Thursday.

As a former soldier who himself ousted a president, Compaore is likely to understand the frustration by the soldiers who revolted, tired of fighting a losing battle against the Tuareg desert nomads, analysts say.

West African leaders warned that the region's troops were on standby if the junta failed to engage in dialogue.

Mali's rebel soldiers – from an army poorly-equipped to battle an insurrection by heavily-armed, battle-hardened Tuareg recently returned from Libya – have called on the desert warriors to join peace talks.

However the Tuareg, waging their decades-old battle for independence, have remained mum and are pushing forward with their offensive. Fighting since mid-January has forced over 200,000 to flee their homes.

While Mali has been hailed as a successful democracy, simmering discontent over the government's handling of the north – also torn by drug and arms trafficking and kidnappings of Westerners – has seen the junta win favour among some Malians.

Several thousand people marched in Bamako brandishing banners reading "Down with ATT (Toure)", "Down with France", and "Down with the international community", while shouting "Sanogo solution" in support of coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo.

"ATT sold the north, he is the rebel chief. (Mali) is a fake democracy," said one demonstrator, Kaba Diakhite, an engineer.

On Sunday the country's only opposition party represented in parliament, with three seats out of 147, African Solidarity for Democracy and Independence (SADI), created a movement in support of the junta.

At the same time 38 political parties and some 20 associations formed a United Front for the Protection of Democracy and the Republic (FUDR), demanding a return to constitutional order.

While support has emerged for the putschists, the country's lawmakers, opposition leaders and politicians have roundly condemned the coup and urged the rapid holding of elections.

African Union suspends Mali

REUTERS - The African Union said on Friday it had suspended Mali's membership after mutinous soldiers staged a coup against President Amadou Toumani Toure this week.

"(The) council decided Mali should be suspended from further participation in all its activities until effective restoration of constitutional order is achieved without delay," Paul Lolo, chairman of the African Union's Peace and Security Council, said.

The putschists on Tuesday announced a new constitution that rules its members out of upcoming elections, lifted its night-time curfew and reopened the borders in an attempt to show the country was returning to normal.

In a statement read out by a soldier on Mali state television, the junta said the new constitution would guarantee the rule of law and basic human rights in "a pluralist democracy".

However as the soldiers unveiled few details on how the transition would proceed, the United States again told them they must step back.

"It's not too late to undo this, to allow the country to return to civilian rule," Washington has told Sanogo, according to US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

The European Union, the United States and other Western powers have cut off hundreds of millions of dollars of support to Mali – except for emergency aid to drought-hit regions of the country suffering food shortages.

Toure's situation has been unclear since he was forced to flee when the mutineering soldiers shot their way to his palace, but France said its ambassador Christian Rouyer had made contact with him by phone.

Date created : 2012-03-28

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