Below is one of the first interviews with President Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali. He has since revealed through AFP that his location is, indeed, Bamako. Once again the translation is my own and I do not have any relationship with RFI. See the original interview in French here.
I personally find ATT's responses appealing. It's been a challenge for the Malian people to not have news from him since last Wednesday. The humility in his rhetoric emphasizing that this is not about him, but the good of the country, is on the right track since an unfortunate percentage of the population believes he thinks too much of himself and wanted to seek a third term. However, much of the Malian population (especially the military) has heard enough of this rhetoric and is no longer sympathetic to ATT being humble and self-effacing. They want results. As a vehicle of public relations, this interview, to be sure, doesn't have the necessary elements to win over any of his opponents.
Amadou Toumani Touré at RFI (Radio France Internationale) : “The most important for me today is not myself”
The President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Touré, of whom we have been almost without news since the coup d’état the 21st of March, gave an interview Wednesday with RFI. He confirms that he is in Mali, in good health and free. And he calls on his compatriots to support Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) proposed exit plan for the crisis.
Amadou Toumani Touré: I would like first of all to make a small statement: I have followed with much interest the conclusions at the end of the extraordinary summit of the ECOWAS, held Tuesday in Abidjan. I sign on completely to the proposals made by the heads of state for a way out of the crisis in our country. That includes the return of normal constitutional order, which is a cardinal point. And that will without a doubt allow us to avoid any adventure. That will also happen by putting back in place the institutions of the Republic which were democratically chosen by the sovereign people of Mali. The “ATT plan” is without a doubt the simplest. Two months away from the end of my mandate, I remain available and above all understanding of any solution moving in the direction of pacification and the safeguarding of Malian democracy. Democracy which, with so many other Malians, so many other democrats, I contributed to installing. I ask my Malian compatriots and the friends of our countries to support our escape from this crisis. Mali does not at all deserve this period of crisis.
RFI: Mr. President, it’s been 7 days since we’ve had news from you. How are you? What is the state of your health?
ATT: I am doing very well. The only thing I’m missing is a little exercise. But I am doing very well and my family is too.
RFI: Where are you currently? Are you still on Malian territory? In Bamako or elsewhere in the country?
ATT: I am in Mali. In my home, Mali.
RFI: Are you being detained by mutineers or free of movement?
ATT: I am not being detained by mutineers. I am free in my country.
RFI: But you are not in Bamako?
ATT: I told you that I am in Mali, and the next time we see each other I will tell you where I have been this whole time.
RFI: How do you view the decision of the ECOWAS which involves restoring your functions as president of the republic?
ATT: I say that the most important for me today is not myself. I am two months away from the end of my mandate. I think that the most important today is, based on consensus, with the whole of the Malian political class and all of the current parties, and all the heads of state of the ECOWAS, to work out an escape from this crisis. I think that the most important thing today, is not ATT, it is not men, what is important is democracy, the institutions, Mali.
RFI: So you are ready to leave? To pull back?
ATT: The question has not yet been asked, but know that, 22 years ago I thought myself useful to my country. 22 years later, I am still here, facing this crisis. For me it’s Mali first and Mali before all.
RFI: Do you still consider yourself President of Mali?
ATT: I do not want to enter into that debate. I consider myself first as a Malian citizen, as a democrat. Today what is important for me, is not my pain, that is nothing. But what pains me, is the situation I see in my country.
RFI: A new constitution has just been presented by the junta which says it will not run in the next elections. Does that seem acceptable to you?
ATT: I think that it is not really for me to decide. The heads of state of the ECOWAS will come to Bamako, they will discuss with each other, and that is the most important.
RFI: Let’s return to the day of Wednesday March 21st. How did you leave the presidential palace? How did that day go for you?
ATT: I spent the whole day under fire virtually since 16:00. Tank fire, fire from armored vehicles, all kinds of fire aimed at my office, my house and my family. And to say conclusively, nothing is left, everything is burned up. But for an old commando, there is always a way of getting out of a difficult situation, and that’s what I did.
RFI: But did you deliberately ask the presidential guard to not counter, to not fight back?
ATT: In no way would I ever wish that the soldiers of the Malian army fire on other Malian soldiers. For me who is also soldier and officer of this army, you can imagine that I would never have wished confrontations between the armed forces to protect a man. The most important today, is a call to unity, a call to cohesion to face up to all the challenges that this country will face.
RFI: Are you still looked after by some loyal supporters?
ATT: I couldn’t tell you. Old soldiers, there are some military secrets that I keep for myself. But the most important is that I am doing well and I am in the Republic of Mali.
RFI: Are you in favor of a military intervention as the ECOWAS has suggested if the mutineers plan for exiting the crisis is refused?
ATT: I will not respond to such a question. I have not been officially contacted and I am not comfortable responding to questions that I was not asked.