The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS has condemned in strong terms the coup attempt in Mali and called on mutinous soldiers that “it will not condone any recourse to violence as a means of seeking redress.”
The Commission in a press release by its President, Désiré Kadré Ouedraogo, says it has been following the mutiny by a section of the military at the Kati Barracks on the outskirts of the capital on March 21 leading to disturbances sparked by elements within the armed forces.
ECOWAS also said the coup attempt is all the more reprehensible because it is coming at a time of “on-going regional and international efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the rebellion in the north of the country, and a day after a special ministerial session of the AU Peace and Security Council on the matter ended in Bamako.”
The statement added, “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.”
Meanwhile, The Press Association is reporting that mutinous soldiers in the country have taken over state television and announced that they have seized control of the government.
The soldiers said the coup was necessary because of the mishandling of an insurgency in the north.
The spokesman for the soldiers, Amadou Konare, a Lieutenant, said in a communiqué that the troops had taken the country’s security into their own hands “due to the inability of the government to give the armed forces the necessary means to defend the integrity of our national territory”.
A soldier at the presidential palace said the presidential guard had failed to defend the palace against the renegade soldiers. They have seized control of the seat of government, but could not find democratically elected leader president Amadou Toumani Toure, who is in hiding.
On national television, a group of about 20 soldiers were shown in fatigues crowding around a desk facing the camera. They introduced themselves as the National Committee for the Re-establishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State, or CNRDR.
“The CNRDR representing all the elements of the armed forces, defensive forces and security forces has decided to assume its responsibilities and end the incompetent and disavowed regime of Amadou Toumani Toure,” said their spokesman reading from a statement.
“All the institutions of the republic are dissolved until further notice. The objective of the CNRDR does not in any way aim to confiscate power, and we solemnly swear to return power to a democratically elected president as soon as national unity and territorial integrity are established.”
The series of events that culminated in the coup began on Wednesday morning at a military camp in the capital, during a visit by defence minister Sadio Gassama.
In his speech to the troops, the minister failed to address the grievances of the rank-and-file soldiers, who are angry over what they say is the government’s mismanagement of a rebellion in the north by Tuareg separatists. The rebellion has claimed the lives of numerous soldiers, and those sent to fight are not given sufficient supplies, including arms or food. Their widows have not received compensation.
Recruits started firing into the air on Wednesday and they stoned the general’s car as it raced away. By afternoon, soldiers had surrounded the state television station in central Bamako, taking the television and radio signals off air for more than seven hours. By Wednesday evening, troops had started rioting at a military garrison in the northern town of Gao, 2,000 miles away.