U.S. ‘Condemns The Military Seizure Of Power’ In Mali

Coup leaders announcing seizure of power on television

Yesterday, a mutiny among the ranks of the Malian military seized power in the capitol, Bamako. Intially blockading the presidential palace and taking over the state broadcaster, and today closed the country’s borders in the face of international condemnation.

Once established at the broadcast center, the Malian troops, calling themselves the “CNRDR” or National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State, announced that they’d seized control and suspended the consitution.

Watch a video of the coup announcement:

Soldiers’ celebratory gunfire reportedly rang out in the capitol through this morning, apparently defying orders. Reports emerged of looting at the presidential palace. An initial report that the president, Amadou Toumani Touré, took refuge at the U.S. embassy is in dispute.

International condemnation came swiftly. The African Union condemned the coup, as did the European Union.

The U.S. State Department — whose websites’s Mali country profile lauds “excellent and expanding” relations “based on shared goals of strengthening democracy and reducing poverty” — released a statement condemning the military moves and calling for a swift return to constitutional rule:

The United States condemns the military seizure of power in Mali…. We call for calm and the restoration of the civilian government under constitutional rule without delay, so that elections can proceed as scheduled. We stand with the legitimately elected government of President Amadou Toumani Touré.

An American in Mali reports on his blog that the embassy there sent out warning SMS messages. The blogger, anthropologist Bruce Whitehouse, wrote:

Three SMS messages from the US Embassy just received: “continue to shelter in place,” and “please prepare for possible service outages: water, electricity, internet”. Another announces that the airport has been closed.

Touré was expected to step down before elections late next month. Tensions rose between the civilian government and the military over supply levels to battle the Touareg rebellion in the country’s north, and general management of that crisis and a protest movement in the south.

Blogger Alex Thurston, an Africa scholar, analyzed some initial reports, makes comparisons and puts the coup in context. “Looking forward,” he wrote, “the fate of the elections and the fate of the war in the north will be paramount concerns. How will the new leaders (or Toure, if he stays) shift the government’s political strategy in the north?”