Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) warned Thursday it will not tolerate any attempt to take power by unconstitutional means in Mali, after a mutiny by renegade troops at the Kati Barracks on the outskirts of the capital, Bamako, Wednesday, turned into an apparent coup.
In a strongly-worded statement signed by ECOWAS Commission President Desire Kadre Ouedraogo, the regional bloc described the mutiny as ''reprehensible'', coming amid regional and international efforts to seek a peaceful solution to the rebellion in the north of the country, and a day after a special ministerial session of the AU Peace and Security Council on the matter ended in Bamako.
''ECOWAS strongly condemns the misguided actions of the mutineers and warns that it will not condone any recourse to violence as a means of seeking redress. The Commission wishes to remind the military of its responsibility under the Constitution, and to reiterate ECOWAS’ policy of 'Zero Tolerance' for any attempt to obtain or maintain power by unconstitutional means.
''ECOWAS is closely monitoring developments in the country and will respond appropriately to any attempts to further disturb the precarious security situation,'' warned the 15-member bloc, renowned for its uncompromising stand against unconstitutional power change.
The statement came amid unconfirmed reports in which the renegade troops claimed to have seized the presidential palace and arrested several government officials.
Though President Amadou Toumani Toure was said to be in the presidential palace when the shooting started, his whereabouts are not yet known.
The mutiny, during which the soldiers took control of the national television station, was sparked by protests over the way the government has been handling the Tuareg rebellion in the northern part of the country, which has forced over 195,000 to flee their homes and left many dead.
On Monday, ECOWAS announced plans to launch a mediation process in Mali, ''within the framework of a general ceasefire agreement, aimed at bringing all the stakeholders to the negotiating table in the quest for a peaceful solution to the crisis''.
The announcement of the mediation plan followed a fact-finding mission by the ECOWAS Commission, led by its President, to Mali 16-18 March, which the Commission said brought the ''unfolding tragedy...into sharp focus''.
-0- PANA SEG 22Mar2012