Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Mali: Prime Minister Diarra ashamed at interim leader's beating

In a TV broadcast, Mali's Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra said he is ashamed that the country's interim President Dioncounda Traore was beaten unconscious by protesters on Monday 21st May.

Traore was attacked a day after a deal was made with coup leader Capt Amadou Sanogo for Traore to remain in office for a year.

In the same televised address, Diarra appealed for calm and called for the protests to stop. A spokesman for regional bloc ECOWAS said Mali could face sanctions if the military was in any way involved.

There has been speculation that soldiers allowed demonstrators, who backed the coup leaders, into Traore's office. He was reportedly unconscious when he reached the hospital, but was later released.

It is thought that the protesters were furious that Traore's decree, which was due to end on Monday, was prolonged. The recent political upheaval in the country and the rebel seizure of northern Mali, have seen thousands of people flee their homes.

Human rights groups are concerned about the humanitarian situation in the country, which is also currently undergoing a draught.

Speaking about the incident Diarra said: "I am ashamed to relate what happened this morning. I'm asking the young people who protested today not to protest again. I have understood their complaints and I'll make sure that the right people hear about them. Given the situation that this country is in right now, vandalism and looting is not what we need. It's not going to help the reconstruction of the nation."

ECOWAS representatives left Bamako on Monday, saying "we have accomplished our mission". The bloc's spokesman Sunny Ugoh, however, told the BBC he was shaken at the events that followed their departure and said sanctions were now a possibility.

He added: "We're rather shocked that this kind of incident would happen barely 24 hours after a delegation from ECOWAS managed to secure an agreement with the military. I believe that regional governments are already consulting to see how they can respond to the situation. Sanctions are still on the table if it turns out that those with whom an agreement was reached are complicit in this."

Sources: BBC News, Reuters, AFP

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