African Union suspends Mali's membership


African Union on Friday suspended Mali following a military coup and said it would send a joint team with the West African bloc ECOWAS to urge a return to constitutional order.The AU Peace and Security Council “decided that Mali should be suspended… until effective restoration of constitutional order is achieved without delay,” Paul Zolo, Nigeria’s envoy to Ethiopia and the AU, told reporters.

Zolo made the announcement following a meeting of the Council at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa.AU Commission chief Jean Ping said the pan-African bloc and ECOWAS will send a joint team to Mali after mutinous troops ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure on Thursday.

Ping said sanctions such as travel bans and asset freezes would follow if the coup is not reversed.Rebel soldiers calling themselves the National Committee for the Establishment of Democracy seized control of the capital Thursday, accusing the government of failing to tackle terrorism and put down a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north.

The coup has sparked widespread condemnation from all quarters including the AU, individual African countries, the European Union and the United States.The Economic Community of West African States, which met in Nigeria, condemned the action by the renegade soldiers who claimed they had seized power from an “incompetent” regime

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.ECOWAS president Kadre Desire Ouedraogo was headed Friday to the Malian capital to meet the junta leaders.”It will be an initial contact which we will have in Bamako,” Ouedraogo told reporters in Burkina Faso.He said that ECOWAS “deems it necessary to be on the ground to evaluate the situation and to hold talks with the authorities to ensure that the guiding principles of democracy and good governance are respected.”What began as a mutiny over the government’s response to the rekindled Tuareg insurrection in the north on Wednesday turned into a full-blown coup as soldiers seized control of the presidential palace and the government broadcaster.

President Toure was forced to flee and his whereabouts remain unclear. France said its efforts to reach him were unsuccessful and urged coup leaders not to harm him.Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo told journalists in an interview that Toure was “doing very well”, and members of the government arrested by soldiers were safe.Kenyan and Zimbabwean foreign ministers were stranded in Bamako after the coup, Ping said, adding that their Niger counterpart had managed to return home. The ministers were in Bamako for an AU peace and security meeting.

The coup leaders have ordered all borders closed. The Kenyan government said it was in contact with Foreign Minister Moses Wetangula and other government officials stranded in Mali.”We have been told that additional participants may be there so we have asked the embassies (in Ethiopia) to give us information and to tell us if they want us to intervene in any way or another to evacuate them,” Ping added.