May 23, 2013
Mali's capital returning to normal, north threatened
Life in Mali's capital slowly returned to normal on Sunday after most mutinous soldiers returned to their barracks, but rebels exploiting a military coup in the country pushed towards three northern towns.
Petrol stations and market stalls reopened in Bamako, the capital, after the military junta that ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure in an overnight coup last Wednesday ordered all soldiers back to barracks. There was also less gunfire and looting.
"Compared to those other days, things are calm. We can get on with our lives a bit," said Bouba Traore, drinking tea with friends under a tree. "I'm not sure we can say it is completely normal though. We'll have to wait until Tuesday or Wednesday for that."
Traffic police returned to busy intersections and workers were back on building sites for the first time in days. At the Medine market, trucks unloaded mountains of yams, onions and tomatoes.
Wedding corteges also toured the streets of the capital which, during the week, had been full of soldiers racing through town, hijacking cars and firing weapons into the air.
Last week's coup was born out of frustration among mainly low-ranking soldiers over a lack of equipment to battle Tuareg-led rebels fighting for independence for the vast desert north.
While the rebels were strengthened by men and arms returning from Libya's war, Malian soldiers complained they had been dispatched to the front short of everything from weapons to food, leading to several routs of the government army.
Despite the fact that elections had been scheduled for April and Toure was not a candidate, the junta said it had to seize power to restore order before polls.
A joint African/United Nations mission visiting the country on Friday told the new military leaders that their behavior was unacceptable. Donors have cut aid and the African Union has suspended Mali. West Africa's ECOWAS bloc is expected to do the same at a summit in Ivory Coast on Tuesday.
A few hundred pro-coup demonstrators took to Bamako's streets late on Saturday. A coalition of political parties and civil society groups on Sunday set up the "United Front for the Protection of Democracy and the Republic." But it has not yet put forward any concrete plans.
Reaction to the coup has otherwise been muted in the capital. "I don't approve of this coup, which will only force the country to take a step backwards," said Oumar Sinayogo, a carpenter. "But now it is done, we must pray for God to help us find a way out of this situation."