Mali coup leader rejects possible Ecowas intervention

Mali's coup leader Capt Sanogo (L) and parliamentary speaker, Dioncounda Traore (R) Parliamentary speaker Dioncounda Traore (R) will take over as interim president

Mali's coup leader has rejected the intervention of foreign troops in the rebel-held north - and hinted at his continuing role in ruling the country.

The comments come just days after a deal was brokered that is supposed to return the West African state to constitutional rule.

The parliamentary speaker is to be sworn in this week as interim president and the junta hand over power.

Mali was plunged into crisis after a separatist uprising that led to a coup.

The putsch, led by Capt Amadou Sanogo, took place nearly three weeks ago amid accusations from the army that the government had not done enough to suppress the insurrection in the north that began in January.

Since the coup, key towns in northern Mali have fallen to Tuareg separatist rebels and their Islamist allies.

'Slap in the face'

The West African regional bloc Ecowas has said it is preparing a force of up to 3,000 soldiers, which could be deployed to wrest back control of the north.

Last week, Capt Sanogo formally asked for Ecowas's help in defeating the rebels, but in televised remarks on Monday night he said he was only asking for equipment and logistical support.

Who are the Tuareg?

map showing Tuareg areas
  • Sometimes called the Blue People because the indigo used in some traditional robes and turbans dye their skins dark blue
  • Historically nomadic Berber people who live in the Sahara and Sahel regions of Libya, Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, which they call Azawad
  • When camels were introduced into the Sahara 2,000 years ago, the Tuareg became the main operators of the trans-Saharan caravan trade in commodities such as salt and gold
  • Lost out when trade switched to the Atlantic Ocean
  • The Tuareg in Mali say they face discrimination because they are light-skinned and have been neglected by the government in far-off Bamako
  • They prefer to call themselves themselves the Kel Tamasheq or speakers of Tamasheq - their language which has its own alphabet

Journalist Martin Vogl in the capital Bamako told the BBC West African mediators have told him that they are annoyed at his latest comments - and see Capt Sanogo's rejection of boots on the ground as a slap in the face.

The parliamentary speaker, Dioncounda Traore, is due to be sworn in on Wednesday as interim president - and under the constitution he has 40 days in which to organise elections.

But the agreement signed on Friday between Ecowas and Mali's military rulers said this time limit would be impossible to stick to given that Tuareg rebels now control the northern half of Mali, the AP news agency reports.

Spelling out details of that deal, Capt Sanogo said that he would help decide how the country would be run after the 40 days set out in the country's constitution for a transition of power.

"It was very clear in the framework agreement that after 40 days we would sit down with Ecowas to decide on another team to lead the transition," Capt Sanogo said.

Correspondents say it now seems clear that the junta leader will remain a key player as Mali tries to pull itself out of crisis.

Amadou Toumani Toure has formally resigned as president as part of the deal.

Ecowas has also lifted sanctions it imposed after the coup and an amnesty has been agreed for the coup leaders.

Human rights group Amnesty International has warned of a major humanitarian disaster in the wake of the fighting in the north.

The Tuaregs, who inhabit the Sahara Desert in the north of Mali, as well as several neighbouring countries, have fought several rebellions over the years.

They complain they have been ignored by the authorities in Bamako.

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