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.

Jacqueline Bisset has claimed that young women today are obsessed with being 'hot', rather than 'charming', 'romantic' or 'beautiful'
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham
booksLena Dunham's memoirs - written at the age of 28 - are honest to the point of making you squirm
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey
tvDownton Abbey review: It's six months since we last caught up with the Crawley clan
Frank Lampard and his non-celebration
premier leagueManchester City vs Chelsea match report from the Etihad Stadium
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
A new app has been launched that enables people to have a cuddle from a stranger
techNew app offers 'PG alternative' to dating services like Tinder
Greg Dyke insists he will not resign as Football Association chairman after receiving a watch worth more than £16,000 but has called for an end to the culture of gifts being given to football officials
Arts and Entertainment
Jake Quickenden sings his heart out in his second audition
tvX Factor: How did the Jakes - and Charlie Martinez - fare?
premier league
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave crime series
Mario Balotelli celebrates his first Liverpool goal
premier leagueLiverpool striker expressed his opinion about the 5-3 thriller with Leicester - then this happened
Britain's shadow chancellor Ed Balls (L) challenges reporter Rob Merrick for the ball during the Labour Party versus the media soccer match,
peopleReporter left bleeding after tackle from shadow Chancellor in annual political football match
Arts and Entertainment
Female fans want more explicit male sex in Game of Thrones, George R R Martin says
tvSpoiler warning: Star of George RR Martin's hit series says viewers have 'not seen the last' of him/her
Plenty to ponder: Amir Khan has had repeated problems with US immigration because of his Muslim faith and now American television may shun him
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Drama Teacher - Hull and Grimsby

Negotiable: Randstad Education Hull: The JobRandstad are currently in need of ...

Reception Teacher

£90 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Randstad Education is the UK mark...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant We are curr...

Head of Marketing and Communications - London - up to £80,000

£70000 - £80000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Group Head of Marketing and Communic...

Day In a Page

A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments