Bamako - Mali's president on Wednesday decried a recent
flare-up of violence in the West African nation, accusing separatist rebels in
the north of "blackmail" and vowing to dissolve a military reform
committee after soldiers took up arms to demand promotions.
Speaking on state television one day after he cut short a
trip to France and returned to the capital, Bamako, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
delivered a stern warning to anyone looking to foment unrest.
"I cannot tolerate indiscipline and anarchy in any
case," said Keita, who was elected in a runoff vote in August.
Keita's election was meant to turn the page on a turbulent
period for Mali, which lost its northern half to rebel groups including
Islamist extremists following a military coup in March 2012.
A French-led military intervention launched last January
drove the Islamists from major cities, but separatist Tuareg rebels remained in
the northern city of Kidal, turning it into a de facto Tuareg state. A peace
accord in June allowed the Malian military to return to Kidal and for the
presidential election to be held, though the reconciliation process was dealt a
significant blow when the separatists announced they were pulling out of the
accord last week.
On Sunday, separatists exchanged gunfire with Malian
soldiers in Kidal, the first time the two sides had fought openly since the
rebels' announcement. The skirmish came one day after two people were killed
and seven others wounded in the northern city of Timbuktu when suicide bombers
blew up their vehicle near a military camp.
Fighting in Kidal flared up again on Monday before French
Fears of insecurity
In his televised remarks late on Wednesday, Keita addressed
the separatists in Kidal, accusing them of "blackmail" but saying he
was committed to promoting development in the north.
In a separate incident Monday that heightened fears of
insecurity, soldiers at an important military barracks near Bamako took an army
colonel hostage, saying they had not received the promotions they had been
In response, Keita said that a military reform committee
based at Kati, the barracks where the colonel was taken hostage, would be
"I've instructed the government to proceed without
delay with the settlement of accounts and dissolution of the committee for the
reform of the armed forces of security and defence," Keita said. "May
the hierarchy prevail... may the chain of command obey or admit its
Keita added: "I say to the authors of the shameful
events of Kati: Enough, Kati will not create fear for Bamako."
Earlier in the day, Justice Minister Mohamed Ali Bathily
announced that 23 prisoners of war affiliated with the Tuareg separatists in
the north were being released, a move he described as a "sign of