Mali coup weakens regional security (VIDEO)


Photo of a TV screen taken on March 22, 2012, shows soldiers announcing a curfew in Bamako after their military coup. The putschists, calling themselves the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy, said the government's 'inability' to put down a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north and tackle terrorism led to their rebellion.


Issouf Sanogo

NAIROBI, Kenya — It's early days — hours, really — for the soldiers who now claim to rule Mali after taking control of the presidential palace and the state broadcaster on Wednesday.

More from GlobalPost: Mali soldiers attack presidential palace in Bamako, raising coup fears

Mali's unstable desert north suffers from periodic Tuareg rebellions and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, but its central politics have been benign for years.

An election was due to take place at the end of April. The incumbent, President Amadou Toumani Toure, was not expected to run. This means Wednesday's apparent coup was not about politics, but guns.

It began when soldiers, angry at the government's failure to properly equip them for the fight against a new Tuareg rebel movement, fired in the air during the Mali defence minister's visit to their barracks. The minister quickly fled, and the emboldened soldiers mutinied. As they marched through the capital towards the presidential palace, they met fleeting resistance.

Within a few hours they were addressing the nation on television. Seen here:

Yesterday President Toure's official Twitter account denied the coup's existence, saying the unrest was simply an isolated "mutiny." His most recent tweet, more than 17 hours ago, said the defense minister was neither wounded nor arrested. Toure has not been heard from since.

Reports from Bamako agree that the mutinous soldiers are in charge. But for how long?

It remains unclear whether the entire army supports the putsch, or just a handful. A lot will depend on how the Tuareg rebels decide to act. They will surely see uncertainty in the capital as an opportunity.

For now things don't look good: there are continuing reports of gunfire in Bamako, borders are closed, and a curfew is in place.