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The Journal Gazette

  • Coup leader Amadou Haya Sanogo, center, stands with Mali's parliamentary head Dioncounda Traore, right, at junta headquarters in Kati, outside Bamako, Mali Monday, April 9, 2012. Mali's highest court met Monday to determine the next step after both the democratically elected president and the coup leader stepped aside, leaving the helm of the West African nation vacant. A complicating factor is that Traore, the head of the national assembly who is now supposed to become interim leader according to the constitution, is considered a divisive figure. (AP Photo/Harouna Traore)

Tuesday, April 10, 2012 12:43 pm

Court clears way for new interim president in Mali

By MARTIN VOGLAssociated Press

Mali's constitutional court on Tuesday cleared the way for the country's national assembly leader to take over as interim president, a move that will return the nation to civilian rule following last month's military coup.

The court's announcement says that Dioncounda Traore will serve as Mali's president for a maximum of 40 days to organize new elections. A ceremony is scheduled to take place Thursday, officials said.

There is still some uncertainty, though, about who will lead Mali after those 40 days, with the junta leader saying Monday that he would decide on a new team along with West African regional bloc ECOWAS.

President Amadou Toumani Toure was just months from finishing his last term when soldiers on March 21 stormed the presidential palace, sending Toure into hiding and overturning a democratic tradition stretching back more than two decades.

The soldiers claimed they had grabbed power because Toure had mishandled a rebellion that began in northern Mali in January. However, it was only after Toure was ousted that the Tuareg rebels succeeded in taking the three largest cities in the region and declared independence.

The loss of the northern half of the country, an area larger than France, has plunged Mali into crisis. The fighters are divided between a secular group and an Islamist faction that wants to impose Shariah law in Mali's moderate north.

Under intense international pressure and regional financial sanctions, Mali's coup leaders signed an accord on Friday, agreeing to return the country to constitutional rule.

Article 36 of Mali's constitution states that in the event the president is unable to serve out his term, the head of the national assembly becomes interim president for a transitional period, before new elections can be held.

For that article to be able to be applied properly, however, Mali's constitutional court needed to confirm that the president cannot carry out his term. Toure emerged from hiding over the weekend to submit his formal resignation.