This Day (Lagos)

Mali: Under Pressure, Coup Leaders Reinstate Constitution

Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, who led other low ranking military officers that ousted Mali's democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Toure last month and scrapped the nation's constitution made a public reversal yesterday, declaring amid enormous international pressure that he was reinstating the 1992 constitution and planning to hold elections.

Sanogo promised to organise a national convention to reach an agreement on a transitional government which would arrange free and fair elections. He did not say when the convention or elections would take place.

In his declaration, Sanogo said: "We take a solemn promise to re-establish from this day on the constitution of the Republic of Mali of February 25, 1992, as well as the institutions of the republic."

"Taking into account the multidimensional crisis that our country is facing," he added, "we have decided that ... we will engage in consultations with all the actors of society in the context of a national convention in order to put in place a transitional body with the aim of organising calm, free, transparent and democratic elections in which we will not participate."

When he was asked by reporters, if he considered himself the president, the coup leader quickly left the scene of his press briefing.

His declaration was blighted by the penetration of Tuareg rebels who seized control of the ancient Northern city of Timbuktu, a move that deepened the crisis in the West African nation.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Tuareg rebels took advantage of the chaos surrounding last week's coup in the faraway capital to take the town of Kidal, located 1,300 kilometres from Bamako on Friday. They seized the biggest Northern city of Gao, located around 1,200 kilometres away on Saturday - cities that never fell in previous rebellions.

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

Mali, once a model democracy, was plunged into crisis on March 21 when a mutiny erupted at the Kati military camp located around 10 kilometres from the presidential palace.

The 30-something 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 armoury, grabbed automatic weapons and headed for the seat of government.

His coup reversed 21 years of democracy, and sent Toure into hiding.

Toure was due to step down after the presidential election, which was scheduled to take place at the end of this month.

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