Wed, May 23, 2012 - Page 6 News List

Mali’s interim leader beaten up

SEETHING:Diancounda Traore was attacked by protesters over a transition deal allowing him to stay on for a year and for giving the coup leader benefits befitting an ex-state head


Riot police try to block pro-junta supporters from entering the presidential compound in Bamako on Monday.

Photo: AFP

Mali’s transition president Diancounda Traore was briefly hospitalized on Monday after protesters angry at his appointment in a deal struck with the junta burst into his office and beat him.

Just hours after mediators left the country pleased at having convinced coup leaders to accept a Traore-led 12-month transition back to democratic rule, thousands took to the streets in protest and overran government offices.

Protesters evaded security and pushed their way into Traore’s offices in Koulouba, the headquarters of the general secretariat next to the presidential palace, which has stood looted and empty since a coup on March 22.

“The protesters, who were many, evaded security forces ... they found him in his office. He was beaten, but his life is not in danger. He was driven to hospital,” a source in the presidency said.

Traore was released after undergoing an examination.

“He had a scan which showed no serious injury,” a doctor said on condition of anonymity, adding that Traore had been driven to a secure location after leaving the hospital.

The incident comes a day after the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) brokered a deal with the junta, prompting relief in the country after weeks of deadlock on the way forward.

“We are all leaving, with the feeling that we have accomplished our mission” set by ECOWAS, Ivorian Minister of African Integration Adama Bictogo said earlier on Monday.

Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo was threatening to derail the transition back to democratic rule by blackballing recommendations that current interim leader Traore, 70, remain in his position for a 12-month period.

Laborious talks had failed to yield a positive result and Traore was due to step down today after a constitutionally mandated 40-day interim presidency, which would have plunged the institutions back into crisis.

However, Sanogo on Sunday accepted a sweetened deal as he was offered all the benefits that a former president would be owed: housing, transport, security and an allowance.

Thousands of Malians took to the street on Monday to protest the transition deal.

“The arrangements made by ECOWAS don’t involve Malians. It is a betrayal,” said Hamadoun Amion Guindo of the Committee of Malian Patriotic Organizations, a pro-coup grouping opposed to Traore.

Some protesters accused Sanogo of “treason” for accepting the arrangement.

One of West Africa’s most stable democracies, Mali was plunged into crisis when Sanogo led a band of low-ranking soldiers to oust former Malian president Amadou Toumani Toure’s government.

On April 12, the putschists agreed on a return to civilian rule and Traore was inaugurated as interim leader and formed a government, but the former junta refused ECOWAS proposals that he stay on for a 12-month transition period.

Politicians felt Sanogo had done an about-turn and was jockeying to lead the transition himself.

“We have come a long way, we were a hair’s breadth away from an impasse,” Malian journalist and political commentator Tiegoum Boubeye Maiga said of the deal.

“On paper the matter is wrapped up. Now it remains to be seen how it will work. I am hopeful. It is important to have given Sanogo the title of former head of state,” he added.

In carrying out the coup, the soldiers claimed that the government was incompetent in handling a Tuareg rebellion in the northern desert that began in January.

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