Mali ReviewNovember 29, 2013 in Uncategorized
Malian Fugitive Recaptured
A Malian fugitive, known as “Cheibani” has been recaptured by French forces following his escape from a Niger prison in June of this year. The fugitive, Alhassane Ould Mohammed, who escaped from a prison in Niger where he was serving a sentence for the killing of four Saudi tourists along with his alleged participation in the assassination of a US diplomat, was arrested by French soldiers in northern Mali on Tuesday. Mali’s Chief Prosecutor Daniel Tessogue confirmed the arrest, adding that Cheibani had been arrested along with three other people. According to Niger’s Justice Minister Marou Mohamed, Cheibani was captured after a tip-off from Niger security officials. He was found in a hideout situated between the towns of Gao and Kidal.
Cheibani was amongst twenty-two prisoners who escaped from the jail in June after an attack on the prison was launched by suspected Islamist militants. Following the mass breakout, officials in the United States unsealed an indictment for his arrest. The indictment specified that Cheibani was wanted for the murder of US diplomat William Bultemeir, who was shot in December 2000 in Niger’s capital city as he was leaving a restaurant with his colleagues.
In September, months after his escape, a US $20,000 (£12,235) reward was announced for information that would lead to his recapture. At the time of his escape, Cheibani was serving a twenty-year prison sentence in Niger for the murder of four Saudi citizens who were travelling with a Saudi prince on a hunting trip in 2009.
Demonstrators Halt Prime Minister’s Visit
Meanwhile on Thursday, Tuareg demonstrators in the northeastern town of Kidal occupied an airport runway in order to prevent Mali’s Prime Minister Oumar Tatam Ly from visiting the rebel-controlled town.
Shortly after the protests ended, demonstrators indicated that Malian soldiers had shot and wounded three demonstrators, however officials from the Malian army have denied these allegations. An African military source has indicated that although troops from the UN military supporting mission in Mali, MINUSMA, attempted to stop the demonstrators from occupying and blocking the runway, they failed to remove the protesters.
Isamel Toure, an official in the regional governor’s office confirmed these reports, stating that as the airport was preparing to receive the prime minister’s plane, “several hundred youths and women backed by the MNLA went to Kidal aerodrome, determined to stop the planed from landing.” Aides of the Prime Minister confirmed the incident, stating that “for the moment,” the prime minister had cancelled his trop. According to his aides, prior to arriving in Kidal, the prime minister had been visiting Gao, which is located 300 kilometers (185 miles) south of Kidal.
Despite a signed ceasefire between the Malian government and Tuareg rebels, which was reached in June of this year, tensions between the two groups continue to be an issue and a threat to Mali’s stabilization process and lasting peace.
Mali’s Elections Off to Second Round
Officials on Wednesday announced that Mali’s parliamentary elections will enter a second round of voting on December 15, after no party secured an absolute majority in the first round of voting that took place on November 24.
While some 6.5 million Malians were eligible to vote for a new national assembly, with more than 1,000 candidates running for the 147 seats, turnout reached only 38.4 percent. According to Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, the Minister of Territorial Administration, the turnout was “far short of our expectations.”
The goal of Mali’s new president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, is to give his RPM party, and its allies, a comfortable majority in the new assembly.
The November 24 polls mark Mali’s second major step towards recovery after the country plunged into chaos in the wake of last year’s military coup. They also mark a finalization of Mali’s transition to democracy after the process was started with the August presidential elections. The latest elections in Mali have been viewed as generally being peaceful by foreign and national monitors however observers nonetheless regretted the low turnout.
Coup Leader Charged With Murder
Amadou Sanogo, the leader of the 2012 coup which effectively plunged Mali into months of chaos, was on Wednesday charged with murder and complicity to murder. According to a judicial source, he has been placed in detention pending further investigations. A source close to the case has indicated that Sanogo has also been charged with kidnapping, with the source noting that “other people” close to the coup leader will be questioned.
His arrest was ordered by investigating judge Yaya Karembe, who at a hearing in Bamako, charged the lieutenant-general with murder. The hearing in the capital city came just hours after several dozen Malian soldiers forcibly entered Sanogo’s residence, which is located in the city centre, in order to arrest him.
Although Sanogo had been ordered in October to appear in front of a panel to answer questions pertaining to a number of deaths that occurred during a mutiny against him at his former headquarters in the central town of Kati, which is located near Bamako, the summons had been ignored by Sanogo, which sparked indignation amongst Malian politicians and activists.
Despite launching a coup in March of last year, in May 2012, Sanogo, along with his former junta, were granted a general amnesty, with Sanogo receiving the status of former head of state, which included all the accompanying benefits. Although that status was later withdrawn, Mr. Sanogo was controversially promoted from captain to lieutenant-general in August of his year, a promotion that prompted a number of fellow ex-junta members, who were also seeking promotions, to mutiny at his Kati barracks. This forced the Malian army to intervene in order to prevent another coup, and further destabilization of security, from occurring. Shortly after the Malian military intervened, the bodies of three missing soldiers were discovered in and around the barracks. Around twenty officers, including Sanogo’s former deputy, were subsequently arrested. Human Rights Watch (HRW), along with other politicians and activists, have called his promotion a “shameful act,” and have argued that the former captain should have been investigated for his alleged involvement in torture.