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Leader of Mali coup signs accord to restore democracy

BAMAKO, Mali - Under intense pressure from the nations bordering Mali, the junior officer who seized control of the country in a coup last month signed an accord late Friday agreeing to return the country to constitutional rule.

The announcement was made only hours after separatist rebels in the country’s north declared their independence, a move that further complicates a crisis that began March 21 when a group of disgruntled soldiers began shooting in the air at a military base, located just miles from the presidential palace.

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On Friday, Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo emerged from his office inside that same base, which served as the de facto seat of government ever since he and his men decided to march from the barracks to the presidential palace, reversing two decades of democratic rule in a single day.

Flanked by the ministers of neighboring 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 organize new elections.

However, the accord did not say what role the military junta or its young leader 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 on the day of the coup.

Article 36 of the constitution says that elections should be held in no more than 40 days. The accord stated that that timeframe will likely need to 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 organizing elections in 40 days,’’ Sanogo said. “It is indispensable to organize a political transition with the aim of organizing free, democratic, and transparent elections in all parts of the country.’’

The declaration was welcomed by Djibrill Bassole, Burkina Faso’s foreign minister. Bassole said the nations bordering Mali had agreed to lift sanctions imposed earlier this week.

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