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As the the coup d'etat in Mali enters its second day, international observers fear the country's drift from democracy will become permanent. For almost two decades, Mali has been a beacon of democracy in West Africa. But the mutinous band of soliders who seized control of the country Thursday have imposed a nationwide curfew and as of right now, no one knows where President Amadou Toumani Touré is. What's worse, the coup comes just weeks before the presidential elections in which Touré had promised to step down—a move marking the end of his second term. In vague language that shouldn't reassure anyone, the coup leaders have vowed to hold elections "once national unity is restored and territorial integrity is re-established." 

The U.N. Security Council condemned the "forcible seizure of power" and demanded the restoration of the constitution and Mali's government institutions. Western governments are lining up to pile on, with the U.S. considering cutting off humanitarian aid (economic and anti-terrorism funding is on the table), the European Union condemning the soldiers' actions and France urging that President Toure be protected. 

At risk in this military gambit, argues The Guardian's Andy Morgan, is a longterm tailspin that could send Mali into the clutches of dictatorship. "The international community had long been prepared to back the Touré regime despite the numerous accusations of corruption, involvement in cocaine smuggling and lack of resolve in its fight against Islamic terrorism that had dogged it in the last few years, simply because Mali was seen as one of those rare African democracies that seemed to function more or less 'properly'," He writes. But now, Western governments are likely to pull back their support for its government institutions. "That glow of legitimacy and welcome has disappeared overnight."

Indeed, Bloomberg reports that the military curfew has Malians indoors from 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. and the country's borders have been completely closed off.  Captain Amadou Sanogo, who's leading the transition said the military will move to quash the ethnic Touareg uprising which has been attacking cities in the north and is the center of frustrations over the Touré regime. The Associated Press reports that Sanogo won't divulge the location of President Touré. "For the moment, I will not tell you where President Amadou Toumani Touré is," he said on state television. "He's very well. He's safe. As far as us — I already told you yesterday that our objective is not to physically harm anyone." The news service reports says any notion that elections will be held by the April 29 deadline "looks increasingly unlikely."
As such, the true intentions of the coup's leaders should be heavily scrutinized, writes Al Jazeera's William Moseley. "It baffles me why some members of the Malian military and their backers could not wait one more month for an election," he writes. "This group did not topple a dictator who had ordered soldiers to fire on his own people, as had been the case 21 years ago, but a democratically elected president in the last month of his term."

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