Mali transition off to rocky start after attack on president
5/22/2012 8:00:09 PM -
BAMAKO (AFP) - Mali's one-year transition back to democratic rule got off to a shaky start on Tuesday amid fears that the process may be derailed after president Dioncounda Traore was attacked by angry protesters.
The Economic Community of West African States mediators of the transition deal threatened sanctions against those responsible for the attack, which they said cast a shadow over the entire process.
ECOWAS "will carry out the necessary investigation to identify those responsible for this reprehensible attack and will apply the required sanctions," said Kadre Desire Ouedraogo, head of the ECOWAS commission, in a statement.
Burkina Faso's Foreign Minister Djibril Bassole, one of the main mediators, said the attack "raises questions about all the gains made towards normalisation and gives an absolutely disastrous image of the process under way in Mali."
Speaking to French International Radio RFI, he expressed confidence that the signatories of the accord remained committed to the transition.
The attack came hours after mediators left the country pleased at having convinced coup leaders to accept a Traore-led 12-month transition back to democratic rule after a March 22 coup.
The African Union also condemned the attack, saying it undermined efforts to restore constitutional order.
In a statement, the AU "stresses the imperative of ensuring the security and safety of the transitional authorities and of creating conditions conducive to the full exercise of the powers entrusted to them, without pressure or interference by all Malian stakeholders."
An angry crowd, which was in favour of the ouster of President Amadou Toumani Toure and does not want Traore leading the transition, besieged his offices despite the presence of hundreds of security guards.
They managed to gain access to his office, beating him badly enough to require a visit to the hospital where he underwent an examination of a head wound and back injury.
"He is walking on his own and is in possession of all his faculties, but he is a little tired," a family member said on condition of anonymity.
The 70-year-old former speaker has remained out of sight since being released from hospital on Monday afternoon, but his inner circle shot down any thoughts of his resigning.
"Resigning now would play in the hands of those who are against Mali," said a source from Traore's entourage.
France's UN ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters in Abidjan on Monday that diplomatic efforts by ECOWAS have been "put seriously in danger by these latest developments (and) maybe other options will now have to be considered."
Anti-coup coalition the United Front for the Protection of Democracy and the Republic (FDR) expressed shock that "appropriate measures were not taken to protect the presidential palace and president" during the protest.
One protester was seriously injured and six others hurt as soldiers tried to stop them.
Mali, once one of west Africa's most stable democracies, was plunged into crisis when Captain Amadou Sanogo led a band of low-ranking soldiers to oust Toure's government.
On April 12 the putschists agreed on a return to civilian rule and Traore was inaugurated as interim leader, but the former junta refused ECOWAS proposals that he stay on for a 12-month transition period.
Politicians felt Sanogo had done an about-turn and was jockeying to lead the transition himself. But on Sunday Sanogo accepted a sweetened deal as he was offered all the benefits that a former president would be owed.
As tensions remained in Bamako, the foreign minister of Ivory Coast, which currently holds the ECOWAS presidency, hinted at a hard stance from the bloc, which he said "cannot support this attitude," referring to the attack on Traore.
A 3,000-strong standby force from the west African region is ready for deployment if Mali requests it.
Stability in Bamako is urgently needed to address a crisis in the north, where Tuareg and Islamist rebels seized an area larger than France in the wake of the coup.