By Jemal Oumar
At least 22 people are dead in Bamako following two days of clashes between soldiers behind the Malian coup and troops loyal to the ousted president.
“Elements of the presidential guards loyal to ousted President Amadou Toure are trying to turn things around and retake control of areas in Bamako in a counter-coup,” former junta spokesperson Bacary Mariko said on Wednesday (May 2nd). “However, military council forces are still controlling the situation.”
Fighting erupted Monday evening after presidential guards rejected the arrest of Abidin Guindo, a former chief of staff close to ex-president Toure, Journal Du Mali reported.
“Life started to gradually return to normal on Tuesday. Bamako streets had been deserted as of the early hours of Monday evening because of the sound of gunfire,” journalist Bab Ahmed said.
“Many citizens have fled the city centres towards the distant suburbs,” local resident Kone Migua told Magharebia. “Our neighbourhood became very crowded with the people who left the central town area. They started to gradually return today, although most of them are still afraid.”
Last Thursday, the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced a transition plan for Mali, including the deployment of military forces to stabilise the situation.
Members of the regional bloc were joined at the Abidjan summit by African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping, French Co-operation Minister Henri de Raincourt, as well as representatives from the European Union, the United States and Algeria.
“Our firm reaction and the commitment of our allies are more vital than ever to prevent our region from sliding into terrorism and transnational crime,” Ivorian President Alassane Outtara was quoted as saying by RFI on Friday.
On Saturday, coup leader Amadou Sanogo rejected the threat to deploy ECOWAS troops to Mali.
“We weren’t consulted in all the decisions that were taken by ECOWAS,” Sanogo said in a press statement.
“I’m against the dispatch of soldiers by ECOWAS and I will shoulder my responsibility for the interim period which is now run by interim president Dioncounda Traore,” Sanogo said. “The Malian constitution sets the interim period in case the president is absent at just 40 days.”
The latest flare-up was predictable because the new regional plan would have isolated Sanogo and those behind the coup, analyst Mohamed Ould al-Mostafa said.
Sheikh Mohamed Ould Harmah, another analyst, told Magharebia that few observers expected the Mali military rulers to relinquish power after last month’s transition agreement.
“The military confrontations that broke out in Bamako Monday evening are a message from the military junta to ECOWAS leaders telling them that no political process or military operation can take place in the north without them,” Ould Harmah said. “This message has clearly reached the African leaders.”