Malians Divided Over Coup as International Pressure Mounts

Malians who back the military coup d'etat, demonstrate in the capital Bamako, March 28, 2012.
Malians who back the military coup d'etat, demonstrate in the capital Bamako, March 28, 2012.
Anne Look

Mali's military junta has created a new constitution, as West African leaders threaten to reverse the recent coup by force if necessary. Malians remain divided in their support of the soldiers who ousted their elected president last Thursday.  

Thousands of Malians took to the streets of the capital, Bamako, Wednesday to support the soldiers who had seized power just six days earlier.

Protester Ampoulo Boucoun says there was no democracy in Mali. He says it is only the army that can save them from the corruption and ineptness of political leaders. He says they do not need France, the United States or ECOWAS. He says Mali is for Malians and they want the army in power to restore order.

Related video report by Mariama Diallo:

Not all Malians are so sure. Opponents of the coup say they are planning a general strike to force a return to civilian rule.  

Bamako resident Moussa Doumbia says they want to declare the capital a "dead city" and do everything they can to make the coup fail. He says they are going to stop the economy.  He says the junta should understand that it can't lead this country without the support of the people.

International powers have solidly condemned the coup, cutting off foreign aid and suspending Mali from regional blocs.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) says it is putting a peacekeeping force on standby, as it sends a delegation of six heads of state to negotiate an immediate return to constitutional rule.

Ivorian president and current ECOWAS head Alassane Ouattara said Tuesday that dialogue and consensus would be their primary instruments to find a solution but that ECOWAS "will not hesitate" from using other options as dictated by circumstances.

West African authorities have not ruled out sanctions, such as travel bans, shutting down vital cross-border trade with Ivory Coast and cutting off currency flow to Mali, which uses the CFA franc of the West African monetary union.

ECOWAS has a standing "zero tolerance" policy for the coups that have toppled the governments of Mauritania, Guinea, and Niger in recent years. The speed with which it has threatened military force could signal that it is gearing up to make an example of Mali.

Coup leaders look to be settling in for the short term.

The junta unveiled a new constitution Tuesday that puts the country in the hands of an ad-hoc commission. Nearly two-thirds of the commission's 42 members are from the military.  All will be exempt from future prosecution. None will be able to run in upcoming elections, the date for which has not been set.

The junta has re-opened land and air borders, lifted a curfew and called on Malians to return to work.

Soldiers ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure just weeks before the presidential election that would have marked his retirement from office.

The soldiers were angry that the government had not properly equipped them to fight Tuareg rebels in the north. The army had suffered several bitter defeats and numerous casualties since the insurgency kicked off in January. The fighting has displaced as many as 200,000 people.

Many Malians, even those against the coup, say they share the junta's frustration at President Toure's perceived disregard for insecurity in the north that has allowed drug traffickers and al-Qaida-linked terrorists to set up shop in recent years.

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