NIGERIA yesterday joined others to condemn “in strong terms” reports that Malian rebel soldiers had taken over control of the country from the democratically elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure.
President Goodluck Jonathan, who expressed displeasure and dismay over the action, described the move as “an apparent setback to the consolidation of democracy in Mali in particular and the African continent in general.”
United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for calm and for grievances to be settled democratically. The African Union said it was “deeply concerned by the reprehensible acts currently being perpetrated by some elements of the Malian army”.
The African Union (AU) said the “act of rebellion” was a “significant setback for Mali”.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said it was deeply disturbed by the raging mutiny in Mali and has warned mutineers to hands off attempts to take over power via unconstitutional means.
ECOWAS Commission President Desire Kadre Ouedraogo who received a full briefing on the situation issued a statement late yesterday afternoon condemning the misguided actions of the mutineers and warns that it (commission) will “not condone any recourse to violence as a means of seeking redress. The Commission wishes to remind the military of its responsibility under the Constitution, and to reiterate ECOWAS’ policy of zero tolerance for any attempt to obtain or maintain power by unconstitutional means.”
Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said in a statement that France, Mali’s former colonial power, was suspending some security cooperation with Bamako and urged constitutional order to be reestablished promptly, a call echoed by the European Union.
“The United States strongly condemns the violence initiated by elements of the armed forces of Mali,” the White House added in a statement.
Washington called “for the immediate restoration of constitutional rule… including full civilian authority over the armed forces and respect for the country’s democratic institutions and traditions.”
The renegade soldiers who have looted the presidential palace declared on state television yesterday they had seized power in the West African state in protest at the government’s failure to quell a nomad-led rebellion in the north.
But a government official told the BBC that President Toure is safe and not in the custody of mutineers.
The coup has been fronted by soldiers of the rank of captain or lower and, if successful, will add a new layer of insecurity to a Saharan region battling al Qaeda agents and a flood of weapons trafficked from Libya since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi.
The army has for weeks appealed to the government for better weapons to fight the northern Tuareg rebels, now bolstered by heavily armed ethnic allies who fought on Gaddafi’s side last year but have returned to Mali.
Members of the newly formed National Committee for the Return of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDR) read a statement after heavy weapons fire rang out around the presidential palace in the capital Bamako throughout the night.
“The CNRDR … has decided to assume its responsibilities by putting an end to the incompetent regime of Amadou Toumani Toure,” said Lieutenant Amadou Konare, spokesman for the CNRDR.
“We promise to hand power back to a democratically elected president as soon as the country is reunified and its integrity is no longer threatened,” Konare, flanked by about two dozen soldiers, said in a statement marred by sound problems.
A subsequent statement by Captain Amadou Sanogo, described as president of the CNRDR, declared an immediate curfew “until further notice”. Little is known about Sanogo except that he is an instructor at a military training college.
The CNRDR declared all land and air borders shut, but it was impossible to verify whether the mutiny had sufficient support to seal off a country twice the size of France and with seven neighbours. Earlier a Reuters reporter said Bamako airport had been shut down by local police rather than renegade soldiers.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had warned that the raging internal conflicts between the Malian government and some opposition parties may increase the number of refugees across Africa.
Speaking Wednesday at a seminar for senior officers of the National Defence College in Abuja, the Head of ICRC Delegation to Nigeria, Mr. Zoran Jovanovic, pointed to the possibility of seeing mass influx of Malian refugees into other African countries if the internal conflict were not speedily resolved.
However, he added that the ICRC and its counterparts in Nigeria and Mali were working to reduce human suffering that the inhabitants of the battlefields may confront.
On Nigeria, he said: “Let me say that there is no internal conflict in Nigeria at present. What is happening in Nigeria now does not meet the definition of internal conflict yet. What is happening in Nigeria is called ‘situation of violence.’ It means there is no conflict but there is situation that could provoke casualties, displacement and human suffering because of what is happening.”
Jonathan, in a statement by his spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati, “warned the coup plotters to allow the ongoing democratic process in the country to run its full course and not to do anything that would truncate the electoral process especially the presidential election slated for next month.
“President Jonathan who also cautioned against the shedding of innocent blood and unnecessary destruction of property of the citizens and foreigners resident in Mali, stressed that the coup plotters have only embarked on a fruitless mission of supplanting a constitutional government by other means which goes against the current global grain of constitutionalism.”
Emphasising that the Nigerian Government would never recognize any unconstitutional regime, the President further urged “all well-meaning governments in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and the United Nations (UN) to roundly condemn the obvious coup d’état in Bamako and demand an immediate reinstatement of the government of President Toure and the continuation of the current electoral process.”