Mali faces economic blockade as Senegal swears in newly-elected president

 

Mali faces an economic blockade after a day of contrasting democratic fortunes in West Africa, where Senegal swore in its newly-elected president and pressure mounted on coup leaders in Bamako to step down.

Leaders who assembled in Senegal's capital Dakar for the inauguration of Macky Sall today held emergency talks after a deadline for Mali's military junta to step down or face sanctions expired. The regional ECOWAS bloc has been talking tough over the seizure of power by young army captain Amadou Sanogo but will be reluctant to further isolate a neighbour that is already facing a powerful armed insurgency.

The former French colony has been cut in two after rebels from the Tuareg minority seized the northern half of the country. Rebels, many of whom have moved south and being part of the defeated forces of late Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi, have declared a separatist state they are calling Azawad. The Tuareg fighters have overpowered the Malian army seizing northern garrisons and taking the historic city of Timbuktu on Sunday.

The early successes of the rebel Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) prompted the demoralised Malian army to mutiny, throwing out democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure 11 days ago.

An economic blockade by its neighbours could quickly strangle the military authorities in the capital, Bamako. Mali shares a currency with seven other countries and badly needs support in its fight against the heavily armed Tuaregs.

The coup leaders are well aware of this and Captain Sanogo promised to restore the constitution and move to elections in a bid over the weekend to ward off a blockade.

The international response to the coup has been hamstrung by concerns that tough action against the new authorities in Bamako could further embolden the MNLA who have been joined by fighters from several Islamic factions, at least one of which is accused of having links to al Qa'ida in the Maghreb (AQIM).

France, which today advised its citizens to leave the former colony says it will not intervene in Mali despite concerns over possible links between northern insurgents and AQIM. Under President Sarkozy, who is embroiled in his own re-election battle, France has been highly active in North and West Africa, intervening in an electoral crisis in Ivory Coast and the Libyan uprising.

An MNLA spokesman said its fighters had not been joined by those of Ansar Dine – an Islamic militia who have been fighting central authorities in Mali and have family links to prominent members of the al Qa'ida affiliate. The rebels have insisted that they will not march on the Malian capital and say they are ready to discuss a ceasefire with the army.

However, concern over links to terror groups remain with some witnesses reporting seeing Arab militiamen joining forces with the MNLA in recently captured towns. There are also reports of widespread looting in the recently captured towns of Kidal and Gao where many residents are trying to flee after being threatened by gunmen.

“There is an atmosphere of terror and confusion” in Gao according to Gatan Mootoo from Amnesty International. A witness in the town told the rights monitor: “Armed people are entering the houses and looting. They are firing in the air and we are all terrified. We are left with no defence.”

Other residents said the hospital in Gao had been ransacked, while reports indicated that one man had been killed by a stray bullet in Timbuktu.

The crisis has so far displaced more than 200,000 people into neighbouring countries who are in the grip of a severe Sahel zone hunger season.

The Tuareg, a historically nomad people who mastered the desert caravans across the Sahara, have lost out in recent decades as trade has shifted air and sea routes. They have also faced discrimination for their lighter skin in Mali where they make up a minority of less than 20 percent of the population. The claims for a homeland of Azawad threaten existing borders in other countries with Tuareg minorities: Algeria, Libya, Niger and Burkina Faso as well as Mali.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper / Office Co-ordinator

£9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This role is based within a small family run ...

Recruitment Genius: Designer - Print & Digital

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This Design and marketing agenc...

Recruitment Genius: Quantity Surveyor

£46000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This property investment firm are lookin...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales / Telemarketing Executive - OTE £30k / £35k plus

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company specialises provid...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003