“Life is slowly returning to normal since yesterday. Stores and gas stations have begun reopening and civilian vehicles are back in circulation on the streets. Also, like every Sunday, many young couples joined in marriage in the six districts of Bamako. These are all strong signs of the will of the residents to return to normalcy and who have no other choice but to work to survive. Offices and the local administration should instead open tomorrow”, said to MISNA, Father Timothé Diallo, head of communications for the Bamako archdiocese, commenting the intricate sides of the Malian situation, five days from the military coup.
The scenes of everyday life unfolding in the capital however do not hide the general sentiments of confusion and uncertainty regarding the future of the nation. “Fortunately since Saturday we have heard no gunfire, which is making the people feel safer, but that aside the situation remains very complex and uncertain”, continued the MISNA source.
Among these is the fate of President Amadou Toumani Touré (known as ‘Att’), whose whereabouts have been unknown for days. According to many sources, he is in a safe secret location, possibly an embassy, under the protection of loyalist forces. Based on other reports, there is a remote possibility he is with some 15 other government members at the Kati military garrison, 15km from the capital, from which the coup was launched. In sign of protest over their detention, it appears that political figures close to ‘Att’ are staging a hunger strike.
Observers and analysts expressed surprise over the identity – unknown until a few days ago – and young age and rank of the soldiers responsible for the coup (simple soldiers and low ranking officers), who seized power headed by the 40 year-old captain Amadou Sanogo.
“I accompanied the Archbishop of Bamako, Jean Zerbo, to the Kati military base, where the junta also received members of the Protestant Church”, said Fr. Diallo, confirming “the young age of the putschists, mostly in their early 30s, who said they were open to listen to advice of the religious leaders”, added Monsignor Zerbo. In the meeting with the soldiers, Monsignor Zerbo urged them “to act with their heads and not hearts, to avoid the nation any further suffering and give guarantees of future serenity”.
Further meetings should be held in the next hours between the junta and top Catholic church authorities. Meanwhile, the borders and international airport remain closed, though the Kenyan and Zimbabwean Foreign ministers, who were in Bamako for a meeting and remained blocked in their hotel for over 48 hours, were evacuated by plane to Lagos. A large delegation of foreigners is still present in Mali as part of the European Union electoral observation mission, who are organizing monitoring activities for the April 29 elections.
The nation was suspended by the African Union and the coup was condemned by the EU and UN Security Council, while the African Development Bank and World Bank had already suspended development aid, with the exception of urgent interventions.
Two contrasting demonstrations are set for today to mark the 21st anniversary of the March 21, 1991 Revolution, the year in which Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré ousted President Moussa Traoré coup. It is a crucial date for the country, which marked the entry of a multi-party system and adoption of a new constitution that brought democracy to Mali. The first gathering was organized by the United Front for the Safeguard of Democracy and the Republic (FUDR), a coalition that counts 38 key political parties and some twenty civil society groups contrary to the coup; they are expected to present an ‘action plan’ to the junta leaders today. A second commemoration is set for March 26 at the stadium on initiative of the March 22 Popular Movement, which supports the junta.