A prominent politician in Mali says a majority of political parties have agreed to support a transitional government tasked with organizing elections to restore constitutional rule.
Cheick Traore, leader of the African Convergence for Renewal (CARE) party and son of former President Moussa Traore, said Malians want a peaceful restoration of democracy in spite of the military overthrow of former President Amadou Toumani Toure.
“We will have to work with the transitional government because what we all want today is peace in this country. We also want the election to be organized so that we can have a new elected president,” said Traore.
“I do believe that today, most of the parties will work with the new transitional government…and also eventually prepare to go to war against those [Tuareg rebels] who are trying to take part of Mali,” he said.
Speaker of parliament Dioncounda Traore is scheduled to be sworn in Thursday as interim president. Analysts say the move officially ends the brief power seizure by mutinous soldiers on March 22.
CARE leader Traore was one of the candidates vying for the presidency in the election originally set for later this month. That vote was derailed after former President Toure’s ouster by soldiers frustrated at the handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the north.
Traore said Malians remain eager to vote to choose their own leaders in “a credibly organized election.”
A recent agreement with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gives the coup leaders immunity after they hand over power to a transitional government. But Traore said there appears to be confusion whether the ECOWAS agreement means the military will have a role in organizing polls.
“People always try to misinterpret the article from this agreement. But the fact is that we will have a transitional government for 40 days with the president of the parliament then we will have a prime minister with the full power to lead the transition and organize the elections,” said Traore.
He said the military will only be responsible for maintaining peace during the electoral process.
As part of the agreement, ECOWAS also pledged to help Mali fight the Tuareg rebels. Since the military coup, the rebels have seized much of the country's north and proclaimed an independent state they called “Azawad.”
Traore underscored the need for a united Mali, but cautioned against foreign military intervention. He insists the national army, when well-equipped, is capable of ending the Tuareg rebellion. He said the Malian army has not been properly equipped for the last 20 years.
“This war is a war where we should [supply] arms to the fighters if not we will never be able to win it, and today what Mali needs more is equipment. I don’t believe that ECOWAS should send its soldiers to Mali because they don’t know the land to start with. Most of these soldiers are from the forest areas of Africa. [But] we are talking about the desert now,” said Traore.
“The most important thing for ECOWAS to do is to train the Malian soldiers and to equip them. And nobody should fight for Mali. It’s Malians who should fight for Mali,” he added.