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Nick Ericsson Nick Ericsson | 13:45 UK time, Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Do you think the coup plotters in Mali now regret what they did? I ask this question in all seriousness because of how quickly events there seem to be spiralling out of their control. Being a military 'government' - organised enough to eject the president from office - would suggest that Captain Amadou Sanogo and his band of men would be in charge for longer than one day. But they seem powerless after triggering something which is rapidly taking on regional - and even international - dimensions.
On the weekend, the former editor of the West Africa magazine Kaye Whiteman told us that Mali was the biggest challenge facing the regional group Ecowas since the 1990s. Since then, unconvinced by the true democratic credentials of the good captain, Ecowas has followed through on its threat of an economic blockade of the country (half of which has swiftly fallen into the hands of Tuareg rebels).
We carry an article on Mali in the latest issue of our magazine. It was written before these extraordinary events. But, you never know, Captain Sanogo could do well to get himself a copy. In it the Malian analyst Andy Morgan writes of the (previous) government's tactics in confronting the northern Tuareg rebellion. Essentially it involved playing up and boosting the rebels' links with al-Qaeda in the Maghreb - even if this stretched what was credible. This guaranteed America's interest - and cash. Today there have been some murmurings of an Islamist element to the recent Tuareg advance. As regional sanctions begin to bite and popular opinion turns against the junta, could Captain Sanogo be reaching for his loud-hailer?

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