Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, who mutinying soldiers say has been deposed in an apparent coup, first came to power in the arid, land-locked West African country in 1991.
Toure, a former army officer, seized power in a coup that toppled long-time military ruler Moussa Traore, who had himself seized power in a 1968 coup, after Traore ordered the shootings of pro-democracy demonstrators in Mali’s capital, Bamako, who had called for an end to one-party rule.
Hundreds of demonstrators were killed or injured, but many soldiers refused to fire and joined the pro-democracy movement, prompting Toure’s intervention in ending Traore’s 22-year dictatorship.
After gaining power, Toure – who had joined the army in 1969, and trained in France and the USSR – organised a conference drawing up a constitution for Mali, and agreed to step down from power in 1992 when democratic elections were held.
‘Soldier of democracy’
Malians who admired Toure’s behaviour following the coup dubbed him the “soldier of democracy”.
Throughout the 1990s, Toure became involved in public health issues, launching campaigns to eliminate polio and endemic parasites such as Guinea worm, and frequently collaborated with the Carter Center human rights organisation.
In 1995, Toure was appointed as a facilitator to help mediate conflicts in central Africa’s Great Lakes region, following the bloodshed of the Rwandan Civil War.
Toure re-entered politics in 2002 when he decided to run for president. Many Malian admirers of Toure’s role during the 1992 coup were disappointed that Toure planned to enter rough-and-tumble Malian politics.
Nonetheless, he won with 64 per cent of the vote in elections described by Freedom House as “generally free and fair”. He was re-elected to another five-year term in 2007 – this time with 71 per cent of the vote – and had said that he would step down from office when his current term ended after elections later this year.
But a rebellion of Tuareg nomads has ravaged Mali’s north since late 2011, forcing up to 200,000 civilians across the region to flee.
The rebellion’s success highlighted the Toure government’s weak hold over large swathes of Malian territory and deeply angered Malian soldiers, who claim Toure’s government is not giving them enough food or arms to fight effectively.
On Thursday, mutinying soldiers announced that they had overthrown Toure, denouncing his government as “incompetent” for its failure to suppress the rebellion.