Under the mediation of West African nations, the political crisis sparked by the March 22 military coup is coming to an end. A ceremony was held today for the swearing of the new interim President, which will mark a return to civilian rule in Mali. As foreseen by the law, the Constitutional Charter must first ascertain the void of power in Bamako. The transition will be headed by interim President Dioncounda Traoré, current parliament speaker, who will be called to name a transitional prime minister and national unity government, who will have full powers to organize general elections on a still unspecified date. The April 29 presidential and legislative votes at this point will undoubtedly be moved to a later date.
The upcoming institutional changes were made possible by the official resignation of the exiting President Amadou Toumani Touré (Att), who was ousted three weeks ago in the military coup, and an accord for an end to the crisis signed by Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo and mediators of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States). A first meeting between the junta leader Sanogo and the future interim President Traoré, accompanied by the Ivorian African Integration minister Adama Bictogo and Burkina Faso’s Foreign minister Djibrill Bassolé, in quality of ECOWAS mediators in the Malian crisis, was “positive”. The two envoys expressed hope that the first cabinet meeting of the transitional government be held “by Friday”, due also to guarantees of cooperation from Captain Sanogo, who pledged “zero tolerance” toward anyone who obstructs the application of the accord “for a return to constitutional order”. The ECOWAS Heads of State have already revoked all diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions applied to force the junta from power, but with serious risks for the population.
While positive steps are being made in Bamako toward a solution to the political-institutional crisis sparked by the coup, the crisis has further complicated in the North, in theory “independent” from the south on decision last week of the MNLA (Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad). Aside from the Ansar al Din, an Islamic formation that fought alongside the MNLA in the past two and a half months, seizing control of the three cities of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu, and a dissident group of the Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), in the vast northern region the presence was reported also of members of the Nigerian Islamic Boko Haram group. Around a hundred men, Nigerian and Niger nationals, are apparently active in Gao.
Based on reports from Algerian security sources, members of the Boko Haram and Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO), a dissident group of the AQMI, participated in the abduction of the Algerian Consul and six members of his mission in Mali. Also the creation of the new armed group, National Liberation Front of Azawad, was announced. The movement, which described itself ‘laic’, counts some 500 men, mostly Arabs originally from Timbuktu. The leadership of the Front already proclaimed its intention of “guaranteeing the security of people and goods”, as also of “opening dialogue among the different local communities”. According to some observers, the intervention of a new protagonist in an already complex scenario could further exacerbate rivalries and tensions.
In regard to the “growing terrorist threat” in Mali, the United Nations Security Council yesterday expressed “deep concern”. The possibility remains unclear of an ECOWAS military intervention in Mali’s northern regions, which will be a top priority for the new Bamako administration.