The putsch in Mali, which has ended with the army's renunciation of power following confirmation by the country's Supreme Court that the leader of parliament, Diouncounda Traore, can become interim president until elections are held, looks at first sight like one of the more unusual coups of recent times. For the record, President Amadou Toumani Touré, whom junior army officers overthrew on March 21 for what they alleged was his mishandling of a long-running counter-insurgency campaign against Tuareg tribals in northern Mali, submitted his resignation on 8 April, after which the coup leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, asked the Cour Suprême du Mali for its ruling. Meanwhile the insurgency continues to intensify, exposing weaknesses in the military's claims as much as anything else. To start with, the military lost the cities of Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu after the coup. In addition, the area now under rebel control is the size of France, with the situation exacerbated by the fact that the Tuaregs themselves are seriously at odds with an extreme Islamist group, Ansar Dine, who aim to impose the Sharia law and appear to be gaining the upper hand over other rebel factions.

Mali, therefore, needs an immediate return to constitutional rule so that the army and the government can address the factors fuelling the northern insurgency and try to resolve the enormous and urgent problems the country's 14 million people face. These include the dispossession of successful subsistence farmers for a huge Chinese-built, Libyan-financed canal in the Ségou region. Secondly, Malian cotton farmers are among others in West Africa who, according to the Fairtrade Foundation, lose $250 million a year in exports because they are undercut by subsidised cotton from the United States, the European Union, China, and India. Thirdly, Mali, like India, loses 30-40 per cent of its foodgrain output because of its poor infrastructure, and the emerging farmers' cooperatives will need more help getting produce directly to the market. What makes the Malian coup so remarkable is that sanctions imposed by the EU and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) were very effective in bringing about the end of military rule. In fact, ECOWAS appears to have been so crucial to the resolution of the crisis that Mr. Touré sent his letter of resignation to it rather than to the Supreme Court in Bamako. The whole episode shows the value of determined non-violent action by international bodies. Not once was there any talk of invasion, regime change, or any of the other interventions that have caused so much harm elsewhere. Malians can now look forward to better.

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