The political transition in the francophone west African nation of Mali has been jeopardized after the interim president was knocked unconscious by an angry mob. Witnesses claimed that the military was involved.
Protesters attacked the interim president of Mali on Monday, shortly after international mediators had concluded a deal extending the head of state's term in office as the nation struggles to restore constitutional rule.
Thousands descended on the presidential palace in the capital, Bamako, breaching the compound and attacking interim President Dioncounda Traore with sticks and branches from trees. Traore arrived at Point G. Hospital unconscious, where he was treated for a head injury, according to Sekou Yattara, a medical student working there.
Yattara told the Associated Press that Traore later regained consciousness, citing information from doctors who were treating the president.
"He has been badly injured but the information I have is that his life is not in danger," said Iba N'Diaye, the vice president of Traore's Malian Democratic Alliance (ADEMA) party.
"This was an attempt on his life," N'Diaye said.
Presidential term extended
Traore assumed power as president in a caretaker government after military officers, led by Capt. Amadou Sanogo, toppled the country's democratically elected government in a March 22nd coup.
The officers ostensibly launched the coup out of frustration over former president Amadou Toumani Toure's failure to quash an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the country's north. Since the military takeover, the Tuareg rebels have seized Mali's north, a region approximately the size of France.
Under the Malian constitution, 70-year-old Traore was restricted to serving 40 days in office after ousted president Toure officially resigned on April 8. Traore served in Toure's government as parliamentary speaker.
But the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) negotiated a deal with the country's military junta to extend Traore's term by a year. The West African bloc had said that the interim president needed more time in office so that elections could be properly organized.
Coup-leader Captain Sanogo originally opposed the ECOWAS demands, but relented after laborious negotiations which ultimately granted him the status of a former head of state. The status comes with housing benefits, a salary and a security detail.
Allegations of military involvement
Soldiers who seized power in the March coup reportedly helped the protesters breach the presidential palace. An Associated Press reporter said that the protesters broke into the building after soldiers stationed themselves at the compound's entrance and waved the crowd in.
Sanogo (left) agreed to extend the term of Traore (right) after receiving a benefits package in a deal with ECOWAS
"It's our opinion that there must have been some complicity on the part of the security services," said N'Diaye, the vice president of Traore's party . "The presidential palace is not just any location, it is protected by soldiers."
A reporter for the local newspaper Le Pretoire, who was present during the attack, also told the Associated Press that the military had been involved.
"It was the soldiers that showed the protesters where Dioncounda's office was located," Rokia Diabate said. "That's how the demonstrators entered the office of Dioncounda Traore."
"I saw the blood in the hallway ... I saw one of his shoes was with the demonstrators and one of the protesters was brandishing a necktie that was full of blood, and that he said it was Dioncounda Traore's tie," Diabate continued.
On the sidelines of the NATO summit in Chicago, French President Francois Hollande called for the political process brokered by ECOWAS to be followed. France is Mali's former colonial ruler.
"I learned during this summit that there was new unrest in Mali, and that the interim president Mr. Traore was injured," Hollande said. "I reaffirm here that the process that ECOWAS initiated needs to be followed. And the legitimate leaders of the country need to be respected."
slk/jm (AP, AFP)