“In synch” with Mali’s transitional government is how the leader of country’s 22 March coup described himself. Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo says he supports interim President Dioncounda Traore’s endeavours to reclaim the rebel-ruled north.
After the coup, which plunged the once stable democracy into chaos, Sanogo and his fellow putschists initially tried to block mediators' efforts to install Traore as transitional president charged with restoring constitutional rule and winning the north back from Islamist rebels.
But in an interview Monday with Malian public TV station ORTM, Sanogo said he supported Traore's handling of the crisis in the north, after the interim leader rejected an offer of a regional military intervention but asked for west African troops to provide logistical support.
Stepping on army’s toes
Sanogo said Traore's 1 September letter requesting help from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to reconquer the north had not stepped on the Malian army's toes by asking for foreign troops to do the national military's job.
"At no point in this request is there any question of troops to secure the institutions of the Malian Republic," Sanogo said, adding that Traore had expressed confidence in the national army's fitness.
"He asked for technical equipment... to help the armed forces," he told ORTM, saying foreign troops would provide logistical support only when "the Malian armed forces feel they need help from their neighbours".
"I must say that the interim president, Dioncounda Traore, the prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, and myself are in sync," Sanogo said.
"We consult each other, we see each other often and we discuss the major decisions concerning the life of the nation."
Not engouth to fight Tauergs
Sanogo and the other mid-level officers who staged the coup justified the action by saying President Amadou Toumani Toure had not been doing enough to fight a Tuareg separatist rebellion in the north.
Al-Qaeda-linked Islamists took advantage of the ensuing chaos to seize control of the region, a vast desert region larger than France or Texas, together with the secular Tuareg rebels.
The Islamists then chased out their one-time allies and have imposed strict sharia law, including public floggings for sex out of wedlock and amputations for theft.
Sanogo told residents of the north, who he said are "suffering" daily, that the Malian army had not forgotten them.
"Your army, at a certain point, at a critical phase, needed to pull back to better be able to attack," he said.
"Silence is not forgetting."