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    African Union Suspends Mali, Hears President Toure Safe

    AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping (l) and the acting Peace and Security Council Chairman, Nigerian Ambassador B. Paul Lolo brief reporters at African Union HQ, March 23, 2012
    AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping (l) and the acting Peace and Security Council Chairman, Nigerian Ambassador B. Paul Lolo brief reporters at African Union HQ, March 23, 2012

    The African Union has suspended Mali's membership and condemned the coup that ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure. Our correspondent at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa reports several African leaders have been in touch with President Toure and are saying he is safe.

    The African Union Peace and Security Council acted swiftly to suspend Mali from the 54-nation body two days after mutinous soldiers seized power in Bamako.  The suspension came even as Mali was holding the Peace and Security Council's rotating chairmanship.

    But with Mali excluded from the deliberations, the acting chairman, Nigeria's AU Ambassador B. Paul Lolo read the Council's decision.

    "Given the manner in which the mutineers in Mali have acted against a constitutional government, and consistent with the various instruments of the African Union and ECOWAS, [Economic Commission of West African States] the Council decided Mali should be suspended from further participation in all its activities until the effective restoration of constitutional order is achieved without delay," said Lolo.

    The Tuareg uprising

    • Tuaregs are an ethnically Berber, nomadic people in West Africa's Sahel and Sahara regions.
    • Tuareg fighters have staged multiple uprisings in Mali and Niger for greater autonomy.
    • Current Mali rebellion began in January after Tuareg fighters returned from Libya, where they fought for Moammar Gadhafi.
    • The conflict has driven about 100,000 Malians to neighboring countries, internally displaced more than 90,000.
    • Losses to Tuaregs prompted soldiers' coup in Bamako Thursday March 22.
    Source:Encyclopedia Brittanica, ICRC, France 24

    AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping told reporters two other West African heads of state, Benin's President Thomas Yayi Boni and Burkina Faso's President Blaise Campaore, were in touch with Mali's President Toure during the coup.  Ping said the two presidents had received assurances the deposed leader was safe.

    "President Yayi Boni called him on 21st," said Ping. "At five o'clock he had a contact with President Campaore.  At that time he was sure he would defeat the insurgents.  Then he had another, three hours later, he had contact with Pesident Yayi Boni, and so on until the end when the palace was seized.  And then we have been told the president is safe, protected by certain number of loyalists."  

    Ping told reporters he had information that President Toure is at an undisclosed location outside Bamako.

    The AU's suspension of Mali is the latest note in a chorus of international condemnation of the Bamako coup.  The United Nations Security Council demanded the release of all detained Malian officials and the immediate restoration of constitutional rule and the democratically elected government.

    The U.S. State Department urged calm in Bamako and said it stands with President Toure.  The European Union, the World Bank and the African Development Bank both announced they were suspending development aid to Mali.

    U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the coup leaders to refrain from any actions that could further destabilize the country.

    The West African nation joins Madagascar on the list of suspended AU member states. Madagascar was suspended in March, 2009 after President Marc Ravalomanana was ousted in a coup.

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