There has been a coup in Mali. The president, Amadou Toumani Touré, has been ousted. The coup leaders have suspended the constitution and established a so-called Comité national pour le redressement de la démocratie et la restauration de l’Etat (CNRDRE) – National Committee for the Restoral of Democracy and Restoration of the State. The whereabouts of President Touré are currently unknown. He seems to be in hiding rather than in the hands of the military rebels.
The coup seems to have been motivated by the security situation in the north of the country, the so-called Touareg rebellion where there is a secessionist movement. There have been military defeats in this area, which is also where islamist forces are operating. It seems as if the coup leaders felt that the government of President Touré was not doing enough to stabilise the situation there.
President Touré himself came to power in a coup in 1991. He guided the transition to democracy and then stood down, allowing free elections. He played no part in domestic politics for the next ten years. He returned to political life in 2002, being freely elected then and re-elected in 2007.
Presidential elections were due to be held in little over a month. President Touré was term-limited and there was a fierce competition to succeed him. However, the campaign, unlike the situation in Senegal earlier this year, was peaceful. There was no obvious frontrunner in the campaign, which would most likely have gone to a second round. So, while the coup leaders may have been anxious about what the policy of any new president would have been, they must have assumed that, whoever won, the policy towards the northern region would have been, in their eyes, at least as bad as the current situation. Hence, they moved now and not later.