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Nigerian president says Mali coup a setback to democracy
by Staff Writers
Abuja (AFP) March 22, 2012

Mali junta says detains loyalist army chiefs in northeast
Bamako (AFP) March 22, 2012 - Renegade Malian soldiers said Thursday they had detained loyalist military chiefs at a barracks in the northeastern city of Gao, several hours after a junta ousted the president.

"We are keeping our military chiefs under guard," one of the soldiers said, after a mutiny erupted at the key garrison on Wednesday, at the same time as that in the capital Bamako.

He said calm had returned to Gao which lies in the heart of the northern desert triangle of the bow tie-shaped nation claimed by Tuareg rebels who are waging a two-month old insurrection against the government.

Soldiers fed up with facing the heavily armed desert nomads while they themselves are poorly equipped, revolted Wednesday.

A mutiny at a barracks near Bamako later turned into a full-blown coup and a junta announced on state television it had put an end to President Amadou Toumani Toure's "incompetent" regime, accusing it of failing to fight the Tuareg or a growing terrorism scourge.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Thursday's military coup in Mali was "an apparent setback to the consolidation of democracy" and urged reinstatement of the deposed government.

In a presidential statement in Abuja, Jonathan asked the regional bloc ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community not to recognise the military usurpers.

"The coup plotters have only embarked on a fruitless mission of supplanting a constitutional government by other means which goes against the current global grain of constitutionalism," he said.

The Nigerian leader demanded an immediate reinstatement of the government of President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was forced to flee his palace during the overnight coup.

He urged the coup plotters to allow the ongoing democratic process in the country to run its full course and not to do anything that would truncate the electoral process, especially the presidential election slated for next month.

Jonathan, who was elected into office last April, said his government "would never recognise any unconstitutional regime."

What began as a mutiny over the government's response to the rekindled Tuareg insurrection in the north on Wednesday afternoon turned into a full-blown coup as soldiers seized control of the presidential palace and the official broadcaster.

Coup plotters, calling themselves the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy, went on television early Thursday to announce they had taken over power in the west African country.

Toure's regime came under increasing pressure in recent weeks as the ongoing Al-Qaeda scourge was compounded by an insurrection of the nomadic Tuareg tribe in the north which has forced over 200,000 people to flee their homes.

Key dates in Mali's history
Bamako (AFP) March 22, 2012 - The west African state of Mali, where renegade soldiers on Thursday claimed to have ousted the government, had been considered a democratic success in recent years but has a long history of instability.

A timeline:

- 1960: Along with most of France's other African colonies, Mali becomes independent. Under president Modibo Keita, it declares itself a socialist state.

- November 1968: Keita is overthrown in a military coup led by Moussa Traore, who becomes "president for life" and rules the country for a total of 22 years.

- 1990: Start of a rebellion by the Tuareg ethnic group in the north of the country. It continues with varying intensity to this day.

- March 1991: Traore is ousted in his turn by a military rebellion which involves heavy street fighting in the capital Bamako and leaves over 100 people dead. Amadou Toumani Toure is installed as president.

- April 1992: The regime holds elections under a new constitution providing for multi-party democracy. Alpha Oumar Konare is elected president; he will be elected for a second five-year term in 1997.

- June 2002: After a new election, Toure returns as president.

- 2003: Following the attacks of September 11, 2001 on the United States, and the ensuing US-led invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the arid west African region of which Mali is a part sees an increase in attacks by islamist groups. In the worst incident, 32 European tourists are held for several months in Mali, and one of them dies.

- May-July 2006: New outbreak of fighting between government forces and Tuaregs in the north.

- April 2007: Toure is again declared the winner of a presidential election.

- July 2010: French and Mauritanian forces mount a raid on islamist forces in the northern Malian desert. The main group operating in the vast Sahel region calls itself Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

- 2011: The overthrow of the regime of Moamer Kahdafi in Libya sends large numbers of Tuaregs who had joined his armed forces fleeing back to their home region.

- March 22: Soldiers claiming the state is not giving them the means to fight a northern Tuareg rebellion say they have overthrown Toure's regime and set up a National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy.

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EU calls for elections after 'apparent coup' in Mali
Brussels (AFP) March 22, 2012 - The European Union on Thursday called for democratic elections "as soon as possible" in Mali after renegade soldiers claimed to have ousted the president in a coup.

"I condemn the apparent coup d'Etat in Bamako and the suspension of the republican institutions of Mali," said EU foreign policy chief Catherine Asthon.

"I call for the reestablishment of the constitutional order and the holding of democratic elections as soon as possible," she said. The elections had been due for April 29.

The soldiers fought their way into the presidential palace and forced Amadou Toumani Toure to flee on Thursday, claiming on television to have ousted an "incompetent regime" and dissolved state institutions.

The putschists, calling themselves the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy, said they had acted due to government's "inability" to put down a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north.

"In this crucial period for Mali, marked by a rebellion in the North, I call on all parties to show responsibility to ensure respect for human life, fundamental freedoms and the integrity of the country," Ashton said.


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Efforts to save lives in Nigeria with clean cookstoves
Abuja (AFP) March 20, 2012
A UN-linked body launched a campaign in Nigeria on Tuesday aimed at preventing deaths due to toxic smoke from rudimentary cookstoves, one of the developing world's worst public health threats. Some two million people die annually from diseases caused by toxic cookstove smoke, according to the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves, a UN Foundation-led initiative seeking to reverse the trend. ... read more

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