Under intense pressure from the nations bordering Mali, the junior officer who seized control of the country in a coup last month has signed an accord agreeing to return the nation to constitutional rule.
The announcement came only hours after separatist rebels in Mali’s distant north declared their independence, a move that further complicates a crisis that began 16 days ago when a group of disgruntled soldiers stormed the presidential palace, reversing two decades of democratic rule in the space of a day.
Yesterday, Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo emerged from his office inside the same military base where the mutiny began and which has acted as the de facto seat of government ever since the March 21 coup.
Flanked by the ministers of neighbouring nations, he read out the accord, stating 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.
The head of the parliament will form an interim government, which will organise new elections.
“In the event of the vacancy of the presidency of the republic for whatever reason, or due to any absolute and definitive impediment,” Capt Sanogo said, “the functions of the president of the republic will be exercised by the president of the National Assembly”.
However, the accord did not say what role the military junta will play in the future.
It also did not state when the head of the assembly will assume the post, or how long the transition will last before new elections are held.
Dioncounda Traore, the head of the assembly, fled Mali after the coup.
Although article 36 of the constitution says elections should be held in no more than 40 days, the accord explains that that timeframe will likely be extended, due to rebellion which has turned the northern half of the country into a war zone.
“Because of the exceptional circumstances that the country is going through, because of the institutional crisis and the armed rebellion in the north which have badly affected the functioning of the institutions of the republic and because of the impossibility of organising elections in 40 days as set out under the constitution,” Capt Sanogo said.
“It is indispensable to organise a political transition with the aim of organising free, democratic and transparent elections.”
The declaration was welcomed by Burkina Faso’s Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole, who flanked Capt Sanogo while he read the accord.
Mr Bassole said afterwards that the nations bordering Mali had agreed to lift the crippling sanctions which went into effect earlier this week, including the closure of the country’s borders.
Landlocked Mali imports all its fuel, and already many neighbourhoods in Bamako had only electricity for half the day.