Mali’s junta invites rebels for talk
BAMAKO MALI’S new military rulers launched a fresh appeal late on Monday to Tuareg rebels advancing in the north of the country to halt their campaign and hold talks.
The junta, facing mounting domestic and international pressure as the US froze aid and demonstrators protested the coup on the streets of the capital, broadcast its appeal on state television.
“We call on them already to cease hostilities and to come to the negotiating table as soon as possible,” said junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo.
“Everything is negotiable except national territorial integrity and the unity of our country,” he added.
Tuareg rebels in the vast north of the country have exploited the disarray caused by last week’s coup and pushed on with their fight for independence of what they say is their traditional homeland.
The Tuareg on Monday said the fall of the key town Kidal was “imminent”, as they pushed on with their fight for independence. The junta had already suggested peace talks over the weekend, but to no immediate avail.The United States meanwhile announced it was following Europe, Canada and other countries in suspending aid to the west African nation.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said aid would be frozen “pending a resolution of the situation on the ground”. A key ally to Mali, the United States has helped it train soldiers to fight growing drugtrafficking and extremism.
The United Nations Security Council joined the chorus of rebuke against the renegade soldiers who overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, demanding the officers return to their barracks.
Inside the country too, patience was wearing thin with the new regime, as a united front of political parties and organisations staged a rally in front of the Bamako stock exchange.
“We demand a return to constitutional order,” and “Down with the putschists, long live democracy, long live Mali,” read banners held up by the protesters who began their rally by singing the national anthem, some raising their fists. The demonstration fell on a national holiday celebrating the country’s previous coup of March 26, 1991, when Toure led a band of soldiers to end the 23-year dictatorship of Moussa Traore.