Mali's Traore in France after assault

2012-05-25 10:34

Paris - Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore is in France for a private visit and medical help, a French foreign ministry spokesperson said, after the 70-year-old was assaulted by protesters back home.

Traore "has decided to spend some days in France on a private visit", the spokesperson said on Thursday.

"This will allow him to attend a longstanding medical rendezvous," the spokesperson, Bernard Valero, added, stressing that there would be no official meetings during the visit.

Mali's interim prime minister Cheick Modibo Diarra said on Malian public television late on Thursday that Traore "had taken himself to hospital".

"We spoke by telephone this morning. He is doing well," he said.

Traore had left Bamako on Wednesday for Paris to undergo medical tests after the assault on Monday by protesters angry at his appointment to head a post-coup transition government.

Traore slowly climbed the stairs to the aircraft before his departure, AFP witnessed, a day after angry protesters evaded security and burst into his office, beating him badly enough to require a visit to hospital for a head wound.

The attack drew widespread condemnation and concern for a fragile transition process after a March coup. Stability is urgently needed in Bamako to deal with Islamist and Tuareg rebels controlling the country's north.

The United States condemned the attack against Traore, as well as efforts by pro-coup supporters to derail the transition back to democratic rule.

Fresh political upset

A statement from the US embassy in Bamako slammed the "flagrant attack", adding the United States "remains deeply troubled and saddened by continued violations against Mali's democracy".

Monday's attack came hours after regional mediators left the country pleased at having convinced coup leaders to accept a Traore-led 12-month transition back to democratic rule after weeks of political deadlock.

Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo had wanted Traore to step down after a constitutionally-mandated 40-days interim presidency, and many felt he was jockeying to lead the transition himself.

However, on Sunday he accepted a sweetened deal as he was offered all the benefits a former president would get, including housing, transport, security and an allowance.

But an angry crowd, which was in favour of the ouster of President Amadou Toumani Toure and does not want Traore leading the transition, besieged his offices despite the presence of hundreds of security guards.

The protest was organised by pro-putsch coalition Committee of Malian Patriotic Organisations (COPAM) who held a two-day meeting ending with a resolution late on Tuesday night that Sanogo would head the interim government.

Defying the Economic Community of West African States-mediated deal, the coalition sparked fresh political upset with its decision "to institute Captain Amadou Sanogo as president of the transition".

Traore's party brushed off the statement as "simply a joke".

Sanogo and a group of low-ranking officers ousted the government in March, saying it was incompetent in handling a rebellion by armed Tuaregs in the north that broke out in January.

However, the coup only opened the way for the Tuaregs, armed Islamist group Ansar Dine backed by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and criminal groups to occupy the vast north of the country - an area larger than France.