Mali President Touré tells RFI he is ready to leave power
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Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré says he is willing to step down and hold democratic elections in June. In an interview with RFI’s Alain Foka, he said he would do everything possible to ensure Mali had a democratically elected president by 10 June at the latest.
Mali is facing a crisis in the north of the country where Tuareg rebels, boosted by the return of fighters for late Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi, launched an offensive on 17 January and have attacked several towns as they demand autonomy for their nomadic tribe.
Touré denies claims that he is willing to fight a war against the rebels in return for staying in power.
“If I had to chose between Mali and war, I would chose Mali. I am ready to go, I will go and I wish with all my heart that Mali has a democratically elected president,” he said.
He also rejected claims that he does not want to put an end to the Tuareg rebellion in the north and said those behind these accusations want to stay in power and do not want elections to be held.
Critics have also accused Touré of not taking a strong enough line with rebels belonging to Aqmi, al-Qaeda’s north Africa wing, who have led an increasingly violent campaign in the country over the ten years of the president’s term.
Touré believes the problem is not a Malian one, but is an international threat.
“We believe that it is not possible for one country alone to fight Aqmi,” he explained. “The fight against terrorism is not just a military one; it is a problem of development, security and defence.”
Touré reacted angrily to accusations that the Malian army is involved in drug trafficking and denied he had closed his eyes to the problem.
“Why would we close our eyes?” he said. “We are fighting a cross-border traffic; we arrest people, we put them in prison and you say we have closed our eyes to the problem.”
Touré explained the drug trafficking was on an international scale and Mali was just a passing through point for the trade.
“When it arrives, the drugs must have come from somewhere,” he said. “We don’t grow drugs, there is not a single tree that grows here, so where are they coming from?”
He said the solution needed more money and required the involvement of several countries all playing a role.
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