Gaddafi's influence in Mali's coup
By Thomas Fessy BBC News, West Africa correspondent
22 March 2012 Last updated at 20:36 GMT
It did not take long for the Libyan conflict to spill over borders in the
Sahel region - and now Mali seems to have paid the highest price so far
following a coup by disgruntled soldiers.
The trouble began when hundreds of Malian combatants who had fought to
defend the late Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, fled back home with weapons
at the end of last year and formed the most powerful Tuareg-led rebel group
the region has known - the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA).
Mali's Tuaregs have long complained that they have been marginalised by the
southern government and have staged several rebellions over the years.
Joined by young recruits and former rebels who had been integrated into the
Malian army in recent years, the MNLA fighters took over several key
northern towns in just two months.
Not only did they secure a large stretch of territory in the mountainous
desert but they also triggered the mutiny, which later turned into a coup,
in the capital, Bamako, on Wednesday night.
While the Malian government had been busy claiming the situation in the
north was under control, rank-and-file soldiers felt humiliated and
abandoned in combat with not enough military resources and food.
"The Libyan crisis didn't cause this coup but certainly revealed the malaise
felt within the army," says Malian newspaper columnist Adam Thiam.
"President Amadou Toumani Toure hasn't been active in tackling drug
trafficking and al-Qaeda fighters, and the emergence of new rebel movements
only added to the soldiers' frustration."
Anger 'too high'
It is hard to tell whether these mutineers had planned to oust President
After weeks of growing discontent, it seemed a rather spontaneous mutiny
when soldiers expressed their anger during a visit by the defence minister
to a military barracks on Wednesday.
It escalated quickly and it is possible that mutinous soldiers organised for
the coup "as the day unfolded", according to Mr Thiam.
Talking to the BBC on the condition of anonymity, a government official
said, however, that "nobody could now pretend they were not warned".
"Many within the government felt something could happen, we just didn't know
when and how. The anger was just too high," he said.
Nearly a month before a presidential election, and at the end of President
Toure's second and last legal term, this coup is a 20-year jump backwards
In 1991, Mr Toure, then an army general, put an end to a military regime in
As promised, elections were held a year later and Mali started building on
Mr Toure came back to power through elections a decade later, in 2002.
The vast West African country has since become one of the rare examples of
democracy in the region.
Despite pride in their democracy, some have pointed out that there has, so
far, been very little sign of condemnation from Malians.
But the way in which President Toure's administration handled the crisis in
the north of the country had already sparked anger beyond the army's ranks.
Hundreds of people set up barricades and burned tyres in the streets of
Bamako last month - protesting at the government's inability to repel
Continue reading the main story
"This coup tarnishes the country's image as it only illustrates how the
military has yet to accept the superiority of civil actors in many African
countries," says Abdul Aziz Kebe, a specialist in Arab-African relations at
the University of Dakar, in Senegal.
"Regional institutions are weak because member states have weak
institutions," he adds.
The West African body Ecowas has, among others, condemned the mutineers'
Earlier in the week it had urged member states to provide military equipment
and support for the Malian army to help it quell the Tuareg insurgency in
But analysts say it was doubtful that Ecowas states would have sent any
reinforcements or agreed to deploy the organisation's force, even though it
is meant to intervene in such circumstances.
They point to the fact that Ecowas failed to take action in Ivory Coast last
year to help solve that country's violent post-electoral crisis.
'No interest in Bamako'
In the meantime, rebels from the MNLA say they might "benefit from the
"It's always best that this corrupt government is toppled," said Hamma Ag
Mahmoud, speaking from the Mauritanian capital, Nouakchott, where the MNLA
has its political wing.
Mr Mahmoud served as a minister in the military regime of Gen Moussa Traore
before it was overthrown by Mr Toure.
"We will certainly advance southwards to continue to liberate the Azawad,"
he says, referring to the northern region the MNLA wants to become
"We're not interested in Bamako, but Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao. These
mutineers will not have the firepower to resist against us. They will have
to sign a peace agreement at some point."
A rebel officer in Tessalit, a village in northern Mali under MNLA control,
said: "The only thing that could threaten our advance is a foreign
Some Malian officials have blamed Nato for the crisis in the north after it
helped Libyan insurgents topple Col Gaddafi.
"Western powers have underestimated that getting rid of Gaddafi would have
severe repercussions in the Sahel region," Mr Kebe says.
Northern Mali has long become a rear base for drug traffickers, al-Qaeda
fighters and other Islamist combatants sharing ground with Tuareg rebels.
Heavy weaponry and arsenals left over from the Libyan war simply reinforced
Seizing power will not change the extreme difficulty of the army's task as
it attempts to combat all of the above.
* Mutiny leader Capt Amadou Sanogo has imposed a national curfew
* It follows anger among troops at the government's handling of a
Tuareg rebellion in the north
* President Amadou Toumani Toure is said to be safe and not being held
* A number of ministers have been arrested
* Country has had democratic rule for 20 years
Mali country profile <http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-13881370
* In pictures: Mali coup
> Sand and fury:
Mali's Tuareg rebels
> In the ripples of
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Received on Thu Mar 22 2012 - 17:54:41 EDT