Sanctions loom in Mali, junta holds onto power

Mali`s neighbours gave the captain a 72-hour deadline to hand power back to civilians.

Bamako: The junior officer who grabbed
power in a coup last week said on Friday he plans to hold free
elections and rapidly return Mali to its established order,
falling short of demands by West African countries to hand
power back to civilians in the next few days.

Mali`s neighbours late yesterday gave the captain a
72-hour deadline to hand power back to civilians, or else face
the closing of borders with landlocked Mali and the freezing
of the country`s account with the regional central bank.
If they go into effect, the measures will be among the
toughest imposed on a state in West Africa, where coups are
still a yearly occurrence.

Coup leader Capt Amadou Haya Sanogo told reporters today
that he "understands" the position of the regional body, the
Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS. However,
he said that he invites ECOWAS "to deepen their analysis of
the situation in Mali. We ask them to analyse the reasons that
led to this coup."

Sanogo grabbed power on March 21 after a mutiny at the
military camp where he is based. The mutiny was sparked over
the poor provisioning of soldiers sent to fight a nascent
rebellion in the country`s north.

Troops have been sent without enough equipment, and the
junta claims that many were killed by the Tuareg separatists
after running out of ammunition.

Sanogo asked the regional body to support him, saying the
junta seized control of the country with the plan of "holding
a rapid process of normalisation, organising free and
transparent elections and a rapid restoration of the state."
He gave no timeline.

In downtown Bamako, lines 50-people deep formed today
outside commercial banks. In the Niarela neighbourhood, the
branch of Ecobank told patrons they could not take out more
than USD 1,000.

Ibrahima Kante, an economist, was one of the people lined
up outside the branch hoping to take out his savings to
weather the coming sanctions.

"I think the banks are going to close because ECOWAS took
a decision to impose sanctions on Mali. It`s important that we
managed to get a little bit of money out before that happens,"
Kante said. "I`m happy with this decision though because it
will mean that the junta has to leave. If they don`t leave,
the population is going to rise up against them."

The apex court directed the National Accountability
Bureau, the country`s main corruption watchdog, to take action
against all government functionaries involved in clearing the
RPPs, including ministers who held the power portfolio since
2006 and officials of state-run power utilities who derived
financial benefits from the contracts.

Leaders of the PPP have accused the Supreme Court, and
especially the Chief Justice, of acting in an impartial manner
in cases involving the party.

They have also accused the Chief Justice of pursuing a
vendetta against President Zardari.

Another bench of the apex court is hearing a contempt
case against Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for refusing to
approach Swiss authorities to reopen cases of alleged money
laundering against the President.

Gilani has said the government cannot act on the Supreme
Court`s orders as the President enjoys immunity within
Pakistan and abroad.

Pakistan currently needs about 16,000 MW a day but only
generates 13,000 MW, and the shortfall has resulted in
prolonged power cuts, especially in rural areas.

The frequent outages have triggered violent protests in
Punjab province over the past few days.


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