Soldiers Oust Mali President, Seize Control


Malian soldiers angered over the government's mishandling of the two-month-old Tuareg rebellion in the North say they have overthrown President Amadou Toumani Toure - just weeks before the election that would have marked an end to his mandate.  The president's location is unknown.  Frustration had long been brewing in the military in what had been one of the region's few stable democracies.  

Residents told VOA that sporadic gunfire continued in Bamako Thursday just hours after renegade soldiers - calling themselves the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State - or CNRDR, seized control of the state.

Appearing on state TV early Thursday, the CNRDR spokesman, Amadou Konare, says the armed forces decided to put an end to the “incompetent regime” of President Amadou Toumani Toure.  He says the constitution is suspended until further notice and all government institutions have been dissolved.  He says an inclusive government will be created after consultation with the nation's representatives.

Stirrings of the coup began Wednesday morning with a mutiny by soldiers at a military camp near the capital and then spread to a military base in Gao, in the northeast.


Soldiers say they lack adequate weapons, ammunition and food as they confront Tuareg separatists in the north of the country.  Since the rebellion began in January, numerous Malian soldiers have died or been captured, though the government has not released exact numbers.

The situation quickly spiralled Wednesday evening as soldiers stormed the state radio and television stations in Bamako and attacked the presidential palace with heavy weapons.

A number of government ministers have been arrested.

The soldiers have set up checkpoints around the capital, imposed a curfew and closed the country's land and air borders.

On state television, coup spokesman, Konare, said the CNRDR's objective is under no circumstances the seizure of power.  He says they promise to hand power back to a democratically elected president as soon as the country is reunified and its integrity no longer threatened.

Mali was set to hold a presidential election on April 29.  President Toure, a former army officer and coup leader himself, was not seeking another term.  He has served his legal limit of two mandates.

It is not clear how pre-meditated the events of the last 24 hours were; however, frustration has long been brewing in the chronically under-resourced military.


West Africa Director for the International Crisis Group, Gilles Yabi, says that frustration has been increasingly apparent since January as the military suffered defeats by the Tuaregs in the north.  However, he says there were rumors of a coup even before the Tuareg rebellion began.

In February, the widows and families of soldiers killed in the north took to the streets to protest government mismanagement of the rebellion.

The renewal of conflict in the north marked the collapse of a 2007 amnesty agreement.  The rebels include former pro-Gadhafi fighters who have returned to Mali with arms acquired from the conflict in Libya.  They are demanding the creation of an independent, Islamic state in the country's northern deserts, the ancestral homeland to tribes of nomadic Tuareg traders.

The United Nations Refugee Agency says fighting has displaced more than 180,000 Malians since January.

West Africa is no stranger to military coups.  Mali is sandwiched between two countries, Mauritania and Niger, that have both, in the past four years, seen soldiers oust elected leaders, rewrite constitutions and organize fresh elections.  Mali, however, was considered an exception.

Yabi says in Mali there were concerns that the government would try to push back or cancel the elections because of the insecurity in the north.  He says the coup is unfortunate, as Mali has a strong tradition of political dialogue and likely could have arrived at a peaceful solution to both the grievances of the army in the north and the election.

Mixed response

The coup has sparked a mixed response from Malians.

Boubacar Ibrahim says the population shares the military's frustration but was not ready for an overthrow of the government.  He says given more time, the government could have found a solution to the military's grievances.  He says the suspension of the constitution and the curfew are worrying for the future of the democracy.

Others, however, see the coup as a necessary evil.

President of the Women's Movement for the Protection of Peace and National Unity, Mariam Djibrilla Maiga, says many people tried to get President Toure to take the rebellion more seriously.  She says he wouldn't, so he had to be pushed aside.  She says the government's handling of the situation was disastrous.  She says the Tuaregs are better armed than the soldiers, and the army was humiliated.  She says this coup was necessary to preserve national unity.

However, she and others say they hope the military will soon return power to civilians.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the head of the African Union commission, Jean Ping, both expressed concern in the early hours of the coup and called for grievances to be resolved in a peaceful and democratic manner.

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
by: Kwame
March 22, 2012 1:45 PM
Nobody should blame the soldiers. Coup d'états were introduced to Africa by U.S. and her allies especially in the sixties when they wanted to establish the neo-colonialism. Those days, they used to tell their puppets and agents to fight for non interference of one African nation in the others and again fight against the Continental Union Government of Africa. By their utterings now, we see who are the hypocrites and parasites.

by: Ekuson Debango
March 22, 2012 10:27 AM
The international community, particularly the West African community, must take immediate steps to get these neophytes out of government.This should necessarily include the use of military force and total blockade of the desert country.

by: almoros
March 22, 2012 9:33 AM
It's better to give the minimum rights to Tuareg people, than to keep on crying the Malian Army and government! Don't worship more those colonized boarders and give chances to Al-Qaeda! Really, there are more rights issues in our continent Africa we have to save it instead of discreminating the minorities in their fatherslands!

by: Alfred Coker
March 22, 2012 6:26 AM
It is rather unfortunate that the soldiers could not afford to wait another month to see what a newly elected president would have done. Also they should have used the elections as a platform to bring their issues to the attention of the candidates.

by: thulani
March 22, 2012 4:42 AM
a committe to run a country, get out of my face!!!!

by: charles hackman essel
March 22, 2012 4:12 AM
Africa Union and Ecowas must step up the responsibility of security for the citizens in Mali.There is great fear now and if care is not taken other neighbouring countries may seriously suffer the rippling effect.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against ISi
November 24, 2015 3:04 AM
The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs