Mali coup leader to head interim government
Posted Wednesday, May 23 2012 at 18:18
Supporters of Mali's coup leader have dealt a fresh blow to a return to democratic rule by saying they have chosen him to head an interim government, defying a deal mediated by regional leaders at the weekend.
The party of former parliamentary speaker Dioncounde Traore, who was named in the deal to lead the transition -- sparking angry protests in which he was beaten -- brushed off the statement by a pro-putsch coalition as "ridiculous".
The pro-coup Committee of Malian Patriotic Organisations (COPAM) said it had decided Tuesday at a meeting "to institute Captain Amadou Sanogo as president of the transition" in the west African nation.
On Sunday the junta had signed an accord mediated by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that 70-year-old Traore would lead the 12-month transition back to democratic rule.
But thousands of people who supported the March ouster of president Amadou Toumani Toure then took to the streets to protest the appointment of a former member of his government.
Scores of protesters besieged Traore's offices and physically attacked him on Monday, prompting widespread condemnation and calls for calm in what was considered one of the region's stable democracies before the crisis.
Sanogo and a group of low-ranking officers ousted the government on March 22, saying it was incompetent in handling a rebellion by armed Tuaregs in the north which broke out in January.
However the coup only opened the way for the Tuaregs, armed Islamists backed by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and criminal groups to occupy the vast north of the country, an area larger than France.
COPAM's resolution Tuesday said Sanogo's priority would be "the recovery of territory with the army, the Malian people and friendly countries passionate about peace."
He would then organise elections.
Sanogo initially resisted ECOWAS efforts to have Traore continue as transition leader for a year after he was inaugurated on April 12 for a period of 40 days.
However the coup leader came around after being offered the status of a former head of state, giving him housing, transport, security and an allowance.
Abdoulaye Kante of Traore's Malian Democratic Alliance (ADEMA) said the statement by COPAM was "simply a joke".
"The ridiculous isn't fatal. The organisers of this meeting are making a last-ditch stand, but it is irresponsible in the current situation," said Kante.
"There is a transition president, it is Dioncounda Traore."