Mali: Interim president wounded in beating returns to Bamako from France


Two Malians drag a portrait of Mali's transition president Diancounda Traore as they take part in a protest with thousands of pro-junta supporters on May 21, 2012 in Bamako.

Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, returned home to Bamako Friday after undergoing medical treatment in France from a beating he received at the hands of protesters loyal to a coup leader.

Traore, 70, became the country's president in April after soldiers behind the March coup agreed to hand over power to an interim civilian government.

However, coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo has shown no signs of leaving the western African nation's political scene.

"I forgive my attackers," Al Jazeera cited Traore as saying, referring to the May incident in which Sanogo's supporters attacked Traore in his office, beating him unconscious.

The protesters were believed to have been aided by soldiers loyal to the military junta that grabbed power in March and who are unhappy by the transition back to a civilian-led government.

"The Malian people are going through a very difficult period, starved for unity. I will apply myself to that," said Traore upon arriving at Bamako airport with his wife and family.

Reuters cited a witness as saying the scars from his injuries were still visible as he spoke to reporters.

"I'm happy to come back on the soil where I was born. My health is improving from day to day," he  told reporters.

"I will answer all of your questions at the appropriate time. In life one must forgive."

He said he would address the nation on Sunday.

According to the Associated Press, many Malians believed Traore would not return after being so gravely wounded.

Traore, the former head of Mali's national assembly, is a close ally of the country's president, who was ousted by Sanogo's forces in coup that, the AP wrote, "reversed two decades of democracy in Mali."

The coup allowed ethnic Tuareg rebels seeking secession to take control of the country's north. However, they have since been driven out by Islamists who have vowed to introduce Shariah (Islamic) law there.

The West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS is proceeding with plans for a 3,000-soldier force to prevent this — it says with Mali's approval.

That has placed pressure on Traore to form a new government and authorize the foreign military intervention.

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