Malian presidential candidates adjust to new reality

After last week’s coup in Mali, it has been assumed that the president election scheduled for April 29 has been, uh, indefinitely postponed.

Indeed, in less than a week, France has suspended its “cooperation” with Mali and the United States, the European Union, the African Development Bank and the World Bank have all cut off their aid to Mali, but the coup’s leaders have declared a new constitution and promised fair elections in due course, in which none of the coup actors would participate.  Current president, Amadou Toumani Touré, who has been president for a decade (and who is known simply as “ATT”) and was set to step down after April’s election after a decade in office, and who had not been heard from or seen since the coup, stated yesterday he was unharmed, and he called for a quick solution to the standoff:

“I am free in my country,” he said in his first public comments since his removal last week.

“The most important thing is not about my well-being. I am two months to the end of my mandate. I think the most important thing today… is to find a way out of the crisis.”

The coup, led by Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo under the banner of the Comité national pour le redressement de la démocratie et la restauration de la démocratie et la restauration de l’état (“CNRDRE”) ousted ATT on the basis that the current government was not doing enough to stop Tuareg rebels who have since January been agitating in the sparse desert north of the country, which is culturally closer to the Libyan desert tribes than to the majority of the Malian population in the south.

Yeah Samaké, a candidate in that election who has received significant press in the United States as a BYU-trained Mormon candidate in a heavily Muslim country and who may or may not have been a frontrunner in advance of the scheduled election, weighed in on last week’s coup in an interview with Public Radio International.

Samaké stressed that he opposed the action and recounted his firsthand account of last Wednesday’s coup:

I was right in front of the radio station when they attacked the ORTM, the national televisions. We found ourselves surprised by militaries with gunfires, so there’s a light that clicked in my head, ‘This is likely to be a coup d’etat.’

Samaké added that the presidential candidates have formed a united front against the coup and meet daily to discuss strategy.

The coup leaders had apparently arrested and imprisoned another former prime minister and presidential candidate, Modibo Sidibé, but have since released him, although not without noting that Sidibé seemed to be predestined as ATT’s favorite to succeed him:

Vraisemblablement, les putschistes en avaient gros sur le cœur contre Modibo Sidibé, si bien que, parmi la vingtaine de candidats officiellement déclarés à la présidentielle du 29 avril 2012, Modibo Sidibé, candidat d’une dizaine de partis politiques, est l’un des rares à avoir été arrêté par le Conseil national de redressement de la démocratie et pour restauration de l’Etat (CNRD-RE) avec Jeamille Bittar, le président de la Chambre de Commerce et d‘industrie. « Modibo Sidibé aurait été ciblé pour sa connivence avec le régime déchu », révèle une source proche de la junte. Pour plusieurs personnes, l’ancien Premier ministre était celui qu’ATT prédestinait au fauteuil présidentiel. Des preuves auraient été découvertes par les éléments de la junte, chose qui reste à vérifier…

Other candidates, such as president of the commission of the West African Monetary Union and the 2002 presidential runner-up Soumaïla Cissé, have condemned the coup as well in demonstrations this week in the center of Bamako, the Malian capital.

ATT himself participated in a 1991 coup to liberate Mali from strongman Moussa Traoré, but only took office in a fairly free election in 2002.

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