News24

Mediators complete mission to Mali

2012-05-21 16:52

Bamako - West African mediators wrapped up their mission to Mali on Monday, after securing their choice for transition president by offering the leader of a March coup the status of former head of state.

"We are all leaving, with the feeling that we have accomplished our mission" set by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), Ivory Coast Minister of African Integration Adama Bictogo told AFP.

"We wanted to bring a modest contribution to peace, but the merit goes to the Malians themselves. The framework of the transition has been defined," he added.

After weeks of laborious negotiations between Ecowas and the junta, which often ended in stalemate, the parties on Sunday agreed that coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo would step down with all the privileges owed to a former president.

One of west Africa's most stable democracies, Mali was plunged into crisis when Sanogo on 22 March led a band of low-ranking soldiers to oust Amadou Toumani Toure's government.

The soldiers claimed that the government was incompetent in handling a Tuareg rebellion in the northern desert.

However the coup allowed the Tuaregs and a motley group of armed Islamists and criminal bands to seize the northern half of the country, an area larger than France..

The northern crisis will pose the biggest challenge to the transitional leaders.

The transition period will last 12 months and current interim leader Dioncounda Traore, 70, will remain the president in the period leading up to elections.

Initially Sanogo had wanted Traore to step down after the constitutionally mandated 40 days, raising fears he was not willing to return to the barracks as he tried to keep a hand on the wheel after agreeing to a transition.