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‘Hostility in the air’: West African delegation makes U-turn over Mali

Published time: March 29, 2012 19:20
Edited time: March 29, 2012 23:20

Supporters of Mali's junta participate in a demonstration against regional bloc ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) at the international airport of Bamako March 29, 2012. Jets carrying West African presidents for a meeting with Mali's new military leaders were forced to turn back mid-flight on Thursday after hundreds of supporters of last week's coup invaded Bamako's main runway. (Reutres / Luc Gnago)

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A delegation of West African leaders was prevented from landing in Mali after pro-junta demonstrators flooded the airport. The presidents were going to try and persuade Mali's junta leader to hand over the power he seized on March 21.

­For safety reasons, the delegation of the Economic Community of West African States – comprised of the Presidents of Ivory Coast, Benin, Liberia, Niger and Burkina Faso – turned around and landed in the capital of Ivory Coast, Abidjan.

Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo, the leader of the military coup in Mali, was waiting for the ECOWAS delegation in the airport. After the incident he expressed his hope that it will not become “an obstacle to finding a solution to the crisis.”

“The bridge hasn’t been burnt,” he said. “And certainly it was youthfulness and inexperience that let this happen, or perhaps they just let things get out of control.”

The ECOWAS Minister of African Integration, Adama Bictogo, had arrived to Bamako earlier on Wednesday and explained why the delegation turned around.

“When we arrived this morning we saw that the security hadn't been organized, and that around 100 people had managed to get on the tarmac,” Bictogo said. “This prevented the plane from landing, and there was hostility in the air.”

The turn-around of this delegation is a setback not only for the West Africa, but also for many Western countries which have their interests in Mali, believes the editor of Pan-African News Wire, Abayomi Azikiwe.

“It is a lot of concern on the part of the United States and other NATO countries in regard to potential greater instability in Mali,” Azikiwe told RT. “They definitely want to move towards some type of negotiated settlement, to return to some type of civilian rule inside of Mali itself.”

“It appears as if the US State Department is backing the ECOWAS delegation,” Azikiwe added.

If the negotiations are hindered, the whole process of national reconciliation and the return to constitutional rule will be stalled, Azikiwe said.

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