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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Mali... Falling Apart-- And Now A Coup

This week I went to see the country's foremost tropical disease specialists; wonderful woman! But she didn't want to take my case. Mostly she does research and academic work. But she agreed to a consultation. When I saw her I told her I had spent some time in the wilds of Mali and the consultation immediately turned into an examination and a series of tests. I'm down 6 vials of blood!

I've been warning readers that Mali has been disintegrating into civil war and that it is now so unsafe for tourists that some of the major sites are now shut down to foreigners-- like, for example, the cities of Timbuktu and Gao, for many people the primary reasons for even going to Mali. And today there was a military coup d'etat, overthrowing longtime president, Amadou Touré-- who had come to power in a military coup a decade ago.

The 7,000 man army is angry because there are no weapons and equipment to fight back against the Tuareg rebels up north.
Anger has been growing within the army at the handling of a Tuareg-led rebellion that has killed dozens of people and forced nearly 200,000 civilians to flee their homes.

While soldiers had been urging the government to provide better weapons to fight the rebels, bolstered by fighters who had fought in Libya's civil war, one of the mutineers said they now wanted to oust President Amadou Toumani Toure.

"He needs to leave power, that is all. The movement will only stop with the taking of the palace," said the sergeant, who asked not to be named.

...A military source said a trigger for Wednesday's events was a visit by the defence minister to a barracks in the town of Kati about 20 km (13 miles) north of Bamako.

"The minister went to speak to troops but the talks went badly and people were complaining about the handling of the crisis in the north," the source said.

An official in the defense ministry who was at the meeting said a soldier accused the defense minister of betraying them by not giving them means to fight the rebels. Soldiers then began throwing rocks at the minister before they took weapons from the armory and started shooting in the air.

Bamako was briefly paralyzed last month as hundreds of Malians put up street barricades and burned tires in the streets to protest at the government's handling of the rebellion.

Tuareg fighters seeking to carve out a desert homeland in Mali's north have made advances in recent weeks, including the seizure this month of the key garrison town of Tessalit by the Algerian border.

The MNLA rebel movement has been bolstered by heavily armed Malian Tuareg returning from fighting alongside Libyan forces who tried in vain to prevent Muammar Gaddafi's overthrow last year.

Apparently the coup was led by low level officers-- no generals or colonels-- and Touré, who was a paratrooper himself, is hiding out with a loyal paratroop regiment. A.P. painted a pretty chaotic picture tonight-- drunken soldiers looting the presidential palace and suspending the consititution.

UPDATE: Ex-President Touré Is Safe But...

Although the A.P. still insists on referring to Mali as "a functioning democracy" the president who was just overthrown in a military coup became president in a military coup of his own 10 years ago. And Timbuktu is about to fall to brutal Tuareg rebels (who still passionately believe in slavery, I might add).

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