The leaders of a military coup in Mali have unveiled a new constitution, a week after seizing power.
They have also announced elections in which those who took part in the coup would be barred from standing, but have not set a date for them.
Several thousand people rallied in the capital Bamako on Wednesday in support of the new military leaders.
The coup was led by soldiers unhappy with the previous government’s handling of a Tuareg insurgency in the north.
Mali’s West African neighbors, and the US are calling for an immediate restoration of democracy. Mali was scheduled to hold a presidential vote in April.
Yeah Samake, a front-runner in that campaign, speaks with Marco Werman about the situation in Mali.
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Marco Werman: I’m Marco Werman, this is The World. Two very different political realities are playing in West Africa this week. Senegal has won international praise for staging a smooth presidential runoff election. That sets the stage for peaceful and democratic power transition there. But just to Senegal’s east, in Mali, democracy is on hold. The president of Mali was ousted last week in a military coup and today thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in the capital, Bamako, in support of that coup. But Mali’s east African neighbors and the United States are all calling for an immediate restoration of democracy. Mali had been scheduled to hold a presidential vote next month. Yeah Samake was a front runner in that campaign. I have to ask you first, where does this coup lead the Malian presidential vote? Is it still on?
Yeah Samake: Well, we can only hope that it is on. We are living the same uncertainty right now as the people outside of the country. They talk about potentially holding elections soon, but the timeline has not been approved upon by the political leaders in the country.
Werman: So what is your position on this coup then? Do you agree with Captain Amadou Sanogo and his reasons for overthrowing President Tuareg?
Samake: No, I would never bring myself to agree that coup d’etat is the way of solving our problems. Yes, Mali was in a difficult situation. That does not mean that we should encourage whenever we have difficulties, that a group of people take arms to solve the problem. They are not doing any better than the people in the north taking arms to make legitimate claims, asking for improvement of the living conditions in the north.
Werman: But Mr. Samake, what about the thousands of demonstrators today in the Malian capital, Bamako, who support Captain Sanogo and his soldiers?
Samake: You know, the people in Mali are showing support for the current leaders that did the coup not because they are in favor of the coup, but because they are against the previous regime. The way they managed the whole rebellion and also the way people are suffering in Mali, the way the leadership has failed the people of Mali.
Werman: This coup happened pretty suddenly. I’m wondering where you were, Yeah Samake, when it happened?
Samake: I was right in front of the radio station when they attacked the OTM, the National Television. And we found ourselves surprised by militaries with gunfires, so there’s a light that clicked in my head that is likely to be a coup d’etat.
Werman: Since the coup last week have you communicated at all with Captain Sanogo or any of his soldiers about what’s happening next?
Samake: I met with Captain Sanogo in the heat of the moment, that was the next day of the coup. I personally walked up to the military people and made a declaration condemning vigorously the coup d’etat. I discussed with him what are the visions, what has happened, why are they doing this and what is the way out? I came to a clear understanding at that point that this was not thought through and they did not have a clear plan. So it was accidental to my understanding, a mutiny and it ended up being a way for them to take over power.
Werman: And are you in touch at all with the other presidential candidates right now on how best to pave the way forward so that elections can happen?
Samake: Every single day I meet with the five to six presidential candidates. We just formed an alliance called L’Association Pour Que Les Démocrates et Les Patriotes Sortent de la Crise.
Werman: And that literally means the association for the democrats and patriots to get out of the crisis, literally.
Samake: Yes, the military leaders now have no choice than working with the people to transfer power so that democracy can continue to flourish. And I believe in this. It picks people apart. We cannot live under dictatorship anymore. The power needs to be given to a transitional government that needs to work for the next nine months making sure that we can hold fair and transparent elections.
Werman: Yeah Samake in Mali. He was running for president of Mali before the coup d’etat last week that’s shaken up the political landscape there. Yeah Samake, good to speak with you, thank you.
Samake: Thank you.
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