Mali Army Retreats From Military Bases as Rebels Gain Ground

West African neighbors have threatened sanctions and possible war if coup leaders don't immediately restore democracy

Soldiers in the Malian army deserted the main military bases in the town of Gao on Saturday after sustained rebel assault, leading to further instability and a question of whether the coup will hold or descend the country into chaos.

The Tuareg rebels have taken advantage of the instability following the coup in mid-March, which ironically was justified as an attempt to crackdown on the Tuareg. Now, some reports say the rebels have taken control of several military bases.

While the Mali soldiers continue to battle a galvanized rebel insurgency, they also have to deal with neighboring West African leaders in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) who have demanded the coup leaders return Mali to civilian rule or else face severe economic sanctions or even military force.

“We do not want to confiscate power,” colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly told reporters in while Burkina Faso for talks with the president there. “We will try to refine proposals to quickly reach an institutional solution acceptable to ECOWAS, the international community but also of course our national community,” he added on behalf of coup leader Captain Sanogo.

The instability now in Mali has its roots in the NATO-backed regime change in Libya and the U.S.’s military training of the coup leader, which went until 2010. Whether or not the coup leaders restore a democratic government, what seems to be in the immediate future is continued and intensified fighting between the army and the Tuareg rebels, an impending sanctions regime that would harm the population and possibly a regional war.

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Author: John Glaser

John Glaser writes for Antiwar.com.