Amadou Toumani Touré, former president who led Mali to democracy, dies at the age of 72

Mali’s former president Amadou Toumani Touré, who led the Sahel nation for ten years before being ousted in a coup, has died in Turkey at the age of 72, a close aide said on Tuesday.

Former Army General Touré has been praised for carrying out democratic reforms after helping to overthrow the country’s longtime military ruler, Moussa Traoré.

But he himself was fired in a military coup in 2012, just before the country’s dormant north was overrun by Tuareg rebels and jihadist militants.

The former president died in Turkey on Monday night, his chief of staff Seydou Cissouma told Reuters, leaving no further details.

The French-speaking newspaper Jeune Afrique reported that Touré had previously undergone heart surgery in Bamako.

Senegalese President Macky Sall tweeted: “I fall in love when I find out about his Excellency Amadou Toumani Toures, former president of Mali. Rest in peace.”

I am sorry to learn the death of SEM Amadou Toumani Touré, former President of the Republic of Mali. I salute the memory of the illustre défunt and present my condolences to his family and people malien ami and frère. Peace to his soul.

– Macky Sall (@Macky_Sall) November 10, 2020

‘Soldier of democracy’

Touré’s life in many ways symbolized the stop-start nature of democracy in Mali, where his successor Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was overthrown in a new coup in August.

Touré was widely known for his initials ATT and led an army coup in 1991 against Moussa Traoré after violent protests against the government. He organized democratic elections the following year and handed over power to a civilian president, earning him the nickname “Soldier of Democracy”.

Touré returned to the presidency in 2002, winning the election with 65% of the vote and being re-elected for a final five-year term in 2007. Touré planned to resign when his second term expires in 2012.

During his presidency, Mali won international acclaim as a model of regional democracy for its regular elections, relatively free press, and institutional reforms.

But his authority was weakened by high-level corruption, armed opposition in the desert north, and a perception among some Malays that elections were not as free and fair as international observers suggested.

It eventually led to the coup in March 2012 by middle-ranking officers, followed by the fall of northern Mali for jihadist militants later that year.

Despite the intervention of French forces in 2013 to help the government retake to the north, militants linked to al Qaeda and the IS group have since expanded their foothold in Mali and other countries in the region.

( Jowharwith REUTERS)