Zimbabwe, AU States behind Mali coup?

Mumbengegwi was attending an African Union meeting on peace and security in Bamako when renegade soldiers stormed the presidential palace on Thursday and ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure.

\r\n

Trudy Stevenson, Zimbabwe’s ambassador in neighbouring Senegal, said on Friday: “He’s definitely still there. They can’t leave the hotel, they are surrounded by armoured vehicles and there is a curfew. The airport and borders are closed.”

\r\n

Mumbengegwi is one of several African ministers caught up in the coup. On Thursday, Kenya confirmed it was drawing up plans to pull out its Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula.

\r\n

Sources said some African Union countries could be the architects of the coup; citing the coincidence of the Summit and the events unfolding.

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

Their hotel, she said, was also surrounded by armed soldiers, adding that the airport and the country’s borders had been sealed as the military moved to consolidate its takeover, roundly condemned by the international community.

\r\n

Foreign Affairs secretary Joey Bimha could not be reached for comment. But sources said the inclusive government was deeply concerned about Mumbengegwi’s fate and his entourage.

\r\n

National Healing Minister, Moses Mzila Ndlovu told VOA that he hoped the coup plotters will protect the besieged African dignitaries.

\r\n

“I want to believe that those who have seized power will want to observe the protocols of the African Union and the United Nations and protect citizens of other countries, particularly those on AU business,” Mzila said.

\r\n

Political analyst Rejoice Ngwenya opined that the Mali coup reinforced the narrative of security sector reform not only in Zimbabwe but the whole of African to keep the military away from politics.

\r\n

The mutineers – calling themselves the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy – announced they had deposed Toure hours after seizing the state broadcaster.

\r\n

\r\n

\r\n

The troops said they had acted due to the government’s “inability” to put down a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north.

\r\n

Foreign governments, analysts and some Malians deplored Thursday’s coup — in a country that has not had one since 1991 — as a severe setback for democracy in Africa.

\r\n

The huge, mostly desert nation, considered one of the least likely candidates for a coup attempt in all of West Africa, was threatened with immediate foreign aid cutoffs.

\r\n

Analysts cited the coup as an example of how Colonel Muammar Gaddafi’s overthrow in Libya could yield unexpected political mutations, destabilising parts of the vast Sahara region.

\r\n

In Mali, many of the rebels had fought for Colonel Gaddafi in Libya, equipping themselves extensively from his armouries before returning home and joining the rebellion against the Malian government.

\r\n

The colonel’s weapons have allowed the rebels, nomadic Tuareg tribesmen, to score surprising victories off the Malian army in the desert north, where they control large stretches of territory. Previous such uprisings have been suppressed; this one shows no signs of being snuffed out.

\r\n

Toure’s whereabouts were not known Friday, and human rights groups reported that a number of his ministers had been arrested.

\r\n

The coup was all the more unexpected because of the presidential elections scheduled for April 29. Touré long ago announced that he would respect the Constitution and not seek another term.

\r\n

However, the African Union said on Friday it had been told that Mali President Amadou Toumani Toure was safe after mutinous soldiers launched a coup against him this week. 

\r\n

“We have been told that the president is safe, protected by a certain number of loyalists,” Jean Ping, Chairperson of the AU Commission, told journalists after a meeting of the bloc’s Peace and Security Council.

\r\n

“The president is in Mali for sure. The assurances we are getting from those that are protecting him is he is not far from Bamako,” he said after the pan-African body suspended Mali’s membership.

\r\n

Bread and fuel ran low in Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday as mutineering soldiers looted petrol stations and shops and hijacked cars, residents said, while coup leaders sought to consolidate their grip on power.

\r\n

The mutinous soldiers, angered by what they saw as President Amadou Toumani Toure’s poor handling of a northern rebellion, roamed the streets of the capital after over-running the presidential palace and taking control of state television.

\r\n

But Tuareg rebels in northern Mali, aiming to capitalise on the confusion in the distant capital, pushed south to occupy positions abandoned by government forces, sources said.

\r\n

Captain Amadou Sanogo, the head of a body set up by the mutineers, suggested on Thursday that soldiers were trying to arrest Toure.

\r\n

The president’s whereabouts were unknown, though unconfirmed reports said he was being protected by loyalist troops in the city.

\r\n

Despite Sanogo’s calls to the soldiers to stop pillaging and respect private property, residents said looting was continuing and had caused shortages while fuel prices have doubled to over 1,300 CFA francs a litre in about 24 hours.

\r\n

“People are afraid because of the soldiers. Often (they take) what is in the car or they make you get out and take the car or sometimes the soldiers themselves just break into shops,” said Bamako resident Adama Quindo.

\r\n

Around the city, most shops, petrol stations and businesses were closed while some residents ventured out in search of bread and petrol.

\r\n

“I am a driver but there is no fuel for the car, I do not even have fuel for my bike to go back home,” said Youssouf Diawara as he queued with other motorists for petrol.

\r\n

“Bread is becoming scarce, I made a mistake this morning, I should have bought more,” said another Bamako resident, adding he had bought only one loaf.

\r\n

REBELS ADVANCE

\r\n

Mali, which was flooded with men and weapons after Libya’s civil war, was already facing the MNLA Tuareg-led rebellion, a growing Islamist threat and a food crisis when the coup broke out after soldiers mutinied on Wednesday.

\r\n

A Malian officer in the northern town of Kidal said rebels had occupied the military camp in Anefis, 100 km (60 miles) to the southwest, after government forces withdrew.

\r\n

“The army has pulled back to Gao,” a source in Timbuktu, another main town in the north, told Reuters, asking not to be named. “There is no longer any military leadership. (The rebels) will take the towns in the north,” he said.

\r\n

The MNLA said on it website that it had taken Anefis, which lies on the Gao-Kidal highway, after Malian troops abandoned their positions and withdrew to Gao.

\r\n

The MNLA, whose numbers have been swollen by Malian Tuareg returning from the ranks of Libya’s army, have been fighting since mid-January for an independent north. They have pushed government soldiers out of remote towns but had not yet threatened the regional capitals of Kidal, Timbuktu and Gao.

\r\n

PRESIDENT PROTECTED

\r\n

Diplomats and officials said they believed President Toure was being protected by a pocket of loyalist soldiers, as the U.S. embassy formally denied widespread rumours that the president was being sheltered there.

\r\n

Mutinous soldiers said they would launch an attack on the parachute regiment they believe is protecting the president, who has overseen a decade of relative stability.

\r\n

Toure, 63, a former paratrooper who seized power in 1991, had gained the nickname ‘Soldier of Democracy’ in his West African state and had been preparing to cede power in April after an election.

\r\n

Mali’s neighbours, the United Nations and world powers from Paris to Washington called for a return to constitutional rule. Regional body ECOWAS said it would not recognise the junta.

\r\n

The World Bank and African Development Bank on Thursday condemned the military coup and suspended funds to Mali.

\r\n

U.S. aid group Millennium Challenge Corporation, suspended operations in the country on Thursday, criticising the “unconstitutional actions” of the mutineers, while the European Commission said on Friday it had suspended development operations in Mali.

\r\n

Captain Sanogo, president of the newly formed National Committee for the Return of Democracy and the Restoration of the State (CNRDR), said the coup had been provoked by the government’s poor handling of the crisis in the north.

\r\n

Sanogo, 

\r\n

 

\r\n

 

\r\n