Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Military Grabs Power in Africa's Mali

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Military Grabs Power in Africa's Mali

Article excerpt

NAIROBI, Kenya -- In the latest unforeseen consequence of Moammar Gadhafi's toppling in Libya, a barracks mutiny turned into a full- fledged military power grab Thursday in the West African nation of Mali, replacing an elderly, well-regarded statesman with a cadre of unknown junior officers.

On the face of it, Mali, which has been a democracy for 20 years, would not seem to be have been a prime candidate for Africa's latest coup, especially compared with its far more politically fluid neighbors in the impoverished region. President Amadou Toumani Toure was due to step down ahead of elections slated for April 29.

But events in Mali took a sharp turn downhill after the conflict in Libya last year sent thousands of restless nomadic Tuareg tribesmen, whose Sahara Desert homeland stretches across the borders of five countries, spilling back into Mali's marginalized desert north, laden with weapons and military experience from having served in the Libyan army.

In a rebellion that began in January, the Tuareg from Libya quickly took ground against the Malian army. The Malian troops complained that they did not have enough arms to counter the northern rebellion, and the young officers who took power seem to have tired of Mr. Toure's rhetoric of reconciliation and his government's inability to impose control on the wild north.

In a televised statement, the military officers representing the country's new rulers said they were "putting an end to the incompetent regime of Amadou Toumani Toure."

The United States and the pan-continental African Union immediately condemned the move, which robbed the West of a rare example of a democratic transfer of power in Africa. Mr. Toure, who is believed to be alive and in hiding, was finishing his second term as president. The constitution did not allow him to run for a third term, but unlike some of his peers, the Malian leader never attempted to rewrite the books to hang onto power. …

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