Mali coup leader gives over power

W. African neighbors assisted in the accord. In the north, rebels had declared independence.

Posted: April 07, 2012

BAMAKO, Mali - Under intense pressure from the nations bordering Mali, the junior officer who seized control of the country in a coup last month signed an accord, agreeing late Friday to return the country to constitutional rule.

The announcement was made only hours after separatist rebels in the country's north declared their independence.

Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo emerged from his office inside the military barracks that has served the de facto seat of government for the last 16 days, ever since he and his men stormed the presidential palace, reversing over two decades of democratic rule.

Flanked by the ministers of neighboring nations, he read out the accord, which states that under Article 36 of Mali's constitution, the head of the national assembly becomes interim president in the event of a vacancy of power.

However, the accord did not say when the head of the assembly would assume the post, or how long the transition would last before new elections are held. Dioncounda Traore, the head of the assembly, fled Mali on March 21, the day that mutinous soldiers led by Sanogo seized control of the nation.

The declaration was welcomed by Burkina Faso Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole, who flanked Sanogo while he read the accord. Bassole said afterward that the nations bordering Mali had agreed to lift the crippling sanctions that went into effect earlier this week, including the closure of the country's borders. Landlocked Mali imports all its fuel, and already many neighborhoods in Bamako had only 12 hours of electricity per day.

A senior official who was involved in the negotiations said the head of the assembly would likely fly back as early as Saturday. He said the accord meant that Sanogo, who just days ago had stubbornly refused to step aside causing the sanctions to go into effect, has finally chosen to put the country back on a democratic path.

However, a Western diplomat in Bamako said he hoped for the best, but worried that Sanogo could still make a U-turn. Neither the official nor the diplomat could be named because they had not been authorized to speak to the media.

"We have to take a wait-and-see approach," the diplomat said. "I certainly hope it's true and that the country goes back to civilian rule so that Mali can get back on its feet."

The confusion in the capital created an opening for rebels in the north, who have been trying to claim independence for more than five decades.

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