Mali’s highest court has met to chart the next step after both the country’s democratically elected president and the leader of its recent coup stepped aside, leaving vacant the highest political position in the West African nation.
Only the constitutional court can determine if Article 36 of the constitution, which stipulates that the leader of the national assembly becomes interim president if the serving leader cannot complete his term, can be applied.
Adama Bictogo, Ivory Coast’s minister of African integration, confirmed on Monday that the legal body was meeting to render its decision.
Former president Amadou Toumani Toure and coup leader Amadou Sanogo stepped down after Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) and the military leaders announced a deal last Friday on the transition of power.
The soldiers, who staged the coup citing government’s failure to rein in the Tuareg rebels that are now controlling the north of the country, had been under pressure from ECOWAS to return power to civilian leaders.
If the court decides to invoke Article 36, national assembly head Diouncounda Traore will become Mail’s new leader.
It is not yet clear what role the military junta will play in the transition.
Soldiers at the military base that has served as the de facto seat of government after the coup said privately that they were not happy with their leader’s decision to bow to pressure and hand back power to civilians.
Soldiers still control strategic points throughout the city, including a checkpoint at the airport and several checkpoints outside the state television station.
Under the plan, signed by mediators and Sanogo, the coup leaders would hand over power to Traore who would be sworn in as interim president with a mission to organise elections.
Sanogo, at the time, said the new prime minister and a national unity government would be put in place “in the next few days”.
The deal, hailed by the African Union, also includes the lifting of sanctions imposed by ECOWAS on Mali and an amnesty for those involved in the coup.
The embargo included the closing of all borders of ECOWAS states with Mali except for humanitarian reasons.
It would also close Mali’s access to ECOWAS ports, and the freezing of Malian bank accounts.
Alassane Ouattara, the president of the Ivory Coast who currently holds the rotating ECOWAS presidency, said the sanctions should be lifted “immediately”.
He also said Toure, who was overthrown on March 22 and had not been seen in public until his resignation on Sunday, should be able to live where he wants under army protection.
The five-page agreement provides a framework for a return to constitutional rule under the interim leader who will also handle the crisis in the north, where Islamists and Tuareg rebels have seized control.
The deal did not give a timetable for Sanogo to step down, but said the 15-state ECOWAS bloc would immediately prepare the end of tough sanctions including the closure of trade borders to the land-locked country.
The statement added that if elections were not possible within the 40 days set out by the constitution due to Tuaregs’ rebellion in the north, a transition structure would need to be created.
The announcement came as the northern rebels declared independence of the territory they call Azawad, a call immediately rejected by African neighbours and foreign capitals in Europe and North America.