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Mali junta rules its members out of planned elections

Thousands rally in support of Mali's internationally condemned military junta as it announces constitution ensuring civilian transition

AFP and Reuters, Wednesday 28 Mar 2012
Mali
A soldier walks in front of the presidential palace days after mutinous soldiers claimed power in a coup, in Bamako, Mali, Monday, (Photo: AP).
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West Africa's regional bloc may call for Mali's parliamentary speaker to be interim president while constitutional order is restored after a military coup, Burkina Faso's foreign minister said Wednesday.

The west African bloc ECOWAS on Tuesday renewed its call for the immediate restoration of constitutional order in Mali and said it would send a delegation of six heads of state to Mali within 48 hours.

As well as Ivorian President and ECOWAS leader Alassane Ouattara, the delegation includes Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan, Burkina Faso's Blaise Compaore, Liberia's Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, Niger's Mahamadou Issoufou and Benin's Yayi Boni.

The delegation is considering asking for a "transition in keeping with the constitution" with "the speaker of the national assembly", Dioncounda Traore, heading the government, Burkina Faso's Djibril Bassole told Radio France Internationale.

Mali's junta on Tuesday announced a new constitution that rules its members out of upcoming elections, seeking to show it will not cling to power.

"Anyone who was a member of the CNRDRE or the government cannot be a candidate in the elections," the new constitution, read out on state television, said of the junta, known as the National Committee for the Return of Democracy and the Restoration of the State.

It added that civilians would be offered 15 out of 41 posts in a new transitional authority intended to prepare the path for elections. Captain Amadou Sanogo, a US-trained soldier who led the coup, will appoint an interim prime minister and government.

The new constitution guarantees the right to demonstrate or go on strike and grants immunity from prosecution for leaders of a coup in which rights groups say three people have been killed.

The coup, triggered by army anger at the government's handling of a northern rebellion, has been condemned by the United Nations, and Western powers including France and the United States.

But several thousand Malians protested against international interference - in the largest show of backing for the junta which had been looking increasingly isolated, particularly abroad - insisting the soldiers be left to run the state while tackling the rebellion.

"They should stay to resolve the problems in the north, corruption and education. That is more important than elections," said one protester, Khalifa Sogo, of the dissatisfaction felt by many Malians with Toure's rule.

Banners read "Long live the army!" and "Dignity refound!".

The whereabouts of Toure remains unknown but Ouattara said he had spoken to him by phone on Tuesday and that he was safe. Toure is believed to be with a pocket of loyalist soldiers somewhere in Mali.

In a final communique, ECOWAS leaders on Tuesday "instructed the ECOWAS Commission to put the ECOWAS Standby Force in a state of readiness for all eventualities".

However the statement did not any include specifics of possible army action. ECOWAS, which has no standing army of its own, would have to go through potentially lengthy processes to raise sufficient troops from member states.

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