Home featured Amadou Toumani Touré, Former Malian President, Dies at 72

Amadou Toumani Touré, Former Malian President, Dies at 72


Amadou Toumani Touré, a former president of Mali who helped shape the country’s political landscape over two decades before being toppled in a military coup in 2012, died on Monday in a hospital in Istanbul. He was 72.

Mr. Touré’s chief of staff, Seydou Cissouma, confirmed the death but provided no details.

In a statement, President Bah N’Daw of Mali praised Mr. Touré for helping modernize the country and dedicating “all his love and all his strengths” to it.

Mr. Touré’s career — first as the military leader of a coup in 1991 that led him to rule the West African nation for a year, and later as Mali’s president for a decade — reflected the recent history of a country shaken by military overthrows, rocky political transitions and local insurgencies.

As the second democratically chosen president in Mali’s post-independence history, Mr. Touré led the West African nation from 2002 to 2012, presiding over improvements to hospitals, schools and other infrastructure and putting in place a national medical insurance plan.

Mr. Touré was also praised for his diplomatic skills and for favoring consensus over confrontation.

Yet after he was re-elected in 2007, Mr. Touré, widely known by his initials, A.T.T., was accused of failing to contain two insurgencies that simmered in the country’s north, one led by Tuareg rebel groups, and another by jihadists.

Mutinous soldiers deposed him in March 2012, opening an era of instability that still shakes the country today.

“A.T.T. was one of the main architects of the Malian democracy,” said Adama Samassékou, a former education minister who had known Mr. Touré since his youth.

ImageMr. Touré in 2008 with President Bush. He “passed the baton” from military to democratic rule, an analyst said.
Credit…Pablo Martinez Monsivais/Associated Press

“Yet many Malians will never forget that unfortunately, it was during his second term that the Malian state crumbled to the point of collapse,” Mr. Samassékou added. “What’s his responsibility in that? It’s hard to say, but what is undeniable is that his presidency led to some of Mali’s most tragic moments.”

Amadou Toumani Touré was born on Nov. 4, 1948, in Mopti, in central Mali, and grew up in Timbuktu, in the north. He began his career as a teacher, but joined the army in 1969, and later received military training in France and the Soviet Union.

As an army officer commanding the country’s paratroop battalion in March 1991, Mr. Touré led the effort to topple the military regime of Moussa Traoré, who had been in power since 1968 and whose suppression of protests had led to the deaths of dozens of demonstrators that month.

Mr. Touré became Mali’s interim head of state, a position he held for over a year, between 1991 and 1992, foiling a coup attempt and steering the country to its first democratic presidential election since it won independence in 1960.

“We must accept to try a new experience, the experience of democracy, the experience of a multiparty system,” Mr. Touré said in a televised interview in 1991, in which he vowed to protect the democratic transition of power.

Mr. Touré won praise in Mali for keeping his promise and swiftly handing power to Alpha Oumar Konaré, who won the 1992 presidential election. “Mali will remember A.T.T. as the ‘soldier of democracy,’ the army official who passed the baton to the first democratically elected president of Mali,” Mr. Samassékou said.

Mr. Touré was named a general, but in the decade that followed he mostly stayed away from Mali’s political scene, creating a humanitarian foundation for children’s health and working on campaigns against polio and AIDS. Mr. Touré fought to control the parasitic Guinea worm alongside former President Jimmy Carter’s efforts from the U.S., and in 2001, he briefly served as a special envoy for U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan after a coup in the Central African Republic.

Later that year, Mr. Touré resigned from the Malian military to undertake his own run for president.

Mr. Touré was elected in 2002 and re-elected in 2007, leading the country for 10 years in which he oversaw infrastructure projects that included the construction of hospitals, roads and schools, and improvements to water and electricity. Mr. Touré was also credited with improving access to housing and creating the country’s first nationwide medical insurance.

But under Mr. Touré, Mali also became riddled with corruption, analysts have said, and in the late 2000s he was increasingly accused of being complacent about drug trafficking in the north. Neighboring countries and France, the former colonial power, grew frustrated at his management of the threats posed by insurgent groups.

“A.T.T. sought to contain security threats without really addressing them, and eventually let the situation in Mali deteriorate,” said Yvan Guichaoua, a lecturer in international conflict analysis at the Brussels School of International Studies and an expert in the Sahel region. “What he was loved for, was also what he was hated for: forging consensus, seeking agreements with various protagonists, and maintaining hegemony on a shoestring.”

Mutinous soldiers deposed Mr. Touré in March 2012, plunging Mali into an era of turmoil as Islamist groups seized swaths of the northern parts of the country and threatened to expand into the center.

Credit…Harouna Traore/Associated Press

“The overthrow of A.T.T. left the Malian Army on the ground in complete disarray,” said Marc-André Boisvert, an independent researcher on the Malian Army. “The chain of command had been destroyed, and the main cities in the north all fell in the weeks that followed Touré’s departure.”

According to Ornella Moderan, a Bamako-based researcher and the head of the Sahel program at the Institute for Security Studies, Mr. Touré was deposed in part because he had failed to reform the Malian military.

“A.T.T.’s predecessor thought that a strong democracy didn’t need a strong army, and A.T.T. didn’t question that when he came into power in 2002,” Ms. Moderan said. “In the end, he was overthrown by a weak army.”

French troops intervened in January 2013, taking back territory in the north that had been controlled by insurgents and preventing the groups from marching to Bamako, the country’s capital.

Still, the country remains roiled by violence.

The threat from jihadist groups — including Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and the Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, among others — has spread across a vast sweep of the Sahel, including in the central area of Mopti in Mali, where Mr. Touré was born. More than 10,000 people have died in unrest in West Africa, and over a million have fled their homes in recent years.

Chronic instability has also plagued the country. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was elected in 2013 after Mr. Touré was ousted, was himself deposed in a coup in August, the third in Mali in less than three decades.

In 2012, Mr. Touré fled Mali and found refuge in Senegal, where he lived for several years before returning to his home country in 2017.

Mr. Touré’s survivors include his wife, Touré Lobbo Traoré, and three daughters.

In September, in one of his last public appearances, Mr. Touré attended the funeral of Mr. Traoré, the authoritarian leader he helped overthrow in 1991.



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