Bamako, Mali – Recalcitrant soldiers chased out the visiting Malian defence minister from their barracks and then took over state television to deliver a message on March 22.
They were upset with the government’s handling of the Tuareg rebellion in the north. Introducing themselves as the “National Committee for the Re-establishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State”, the soldiers would put an end to President Amadou Toumani Touré’s “incompetent” rule.
The military coup, and the subsequent void of authority in the south, proved disastrous for Mali’s northern territories. Tuareg rebels and other groups linked to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb quickly took control of the key northern cities Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal, splitting the country in two.
While the junta officially conceded power to a transitional civilian government, six months later there are still serious doubts as to who wields political power and controls the media in the capital Bamako.
One director of the state television station ORTM, who asked not to be named, said since the coup, “There are things that we can say, but there are certain things that the government will not accept.”
Meanwhile, talk of a foreign military intervention to take back the north continues grow. Just recently, the UN Security Council approved a resolution giving regional leaders – including the Economic Community of West African States, the African Union, and the United Nations – 45 days to provide the specifics of their proposed intervention.
Still, the lack of political legitimacy in Mali’s south has led to a reluctance on the part of some to support a military operation, especially US officials.
Despite the calls for war, daily life marches on in the country and an uneasy calm reigns – for the moment.