Mali Rebels Seize Control in Coup

Although they are touting democracy as their cause, the rebels launched their attack just weeks before a national vote.

Posted: 03/22/2012 04:01 PM EDT

A group of military officers in Mali launched a coup Thursday morning, ultimately seizing power after storming the presidential palace and enacting a military curfew for civilians.


In a message broadcast over Mali’s state television network, also usurped by the rebels, a spokesman announced that the country’s constitution and all democratic institutions have been suspended. The spokesman also said the rebels have organized themselves into the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR) and plan to hand power over to a democratically elected leader once the country is “reunified and its integrity is no longer threatened."


The coup came just as the country was gearing up for a presidential election slated to take place on April 29.


In the midst of the takeover, the whereabouts of President Amadou Toumani Touré, 63, could not be confirmed. Touré was first elected in 2002 after taking part in Mali’s last coup in 1991. The Associated Press reports that during the coup, drunken soldiers plundered the presidential palace; taking off with flat-screen TVs and computers.


Although the rebels’ pleaded for civilians to put down their arms, gunshots continued to ring out hours after the broadcast.


Chairman of the African Union Commission, Jean Ping, released a statement strongly condemning the rebellion, adding that the coup “seriously undermines constitutional legality and constitutes a significant setback for Mali and for the ongoing democratic processes on the continent.”


The White House press secretary also announced that the United States condemns the violence started by Mali’s armed forces and stands in solidarity with the leadership of President Amadou Toumani Touré.


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(Photo: EPA/MALIN PALM/Landov)

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