Mali’s ousted former president Amadou Toumani Toure returned to the country over the weekend for the first time since he was ousted in a coup in 2012.
He fled Burkina Faso for Senegal with his family where they lived in exile for the last five years. Toure flew into the capital, Bamako, the scene of his downfall on 22 March 2012, when mutinous soldiers overthrew the government and detained him.
The coup led by army captain Amadou Sanogo toppled what had been heralded as one of the region’s most stable democracies, before the country’s northern territory was overrun by Islamist rebels allied with Al-Qaeda.
Toure, who arrived with his family on board the presidential plane, travelled to the personal residence of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, with whom they had lunch.
He was welcomed by the prime minister and security minister, along with hundreds of supporters at around midday local time.
President Keita on Friday said the time has come “for us to tell our brother Amadou Toumani Toure to return to Mali.”
Toure has been living in exile in Senegal ever since he was deposed.
He was accused by Keita’s government in 2013 of treason over the failure of soldiers to tackle a rebellion led by Tuareg people that eventually led to jihadists trying to take over the country.
But the National Assembly rejected in December 2016 by an overwhelming majority the opening of lawsuits against him.
Islamist militants took control of northern cities in Mali in March and April 2012 but were chased out by a French-led military operation launched in January 2013, which is still under way.
Mali’s army, French soldiers and a United Nations mission have little control of large tracts of the country, which regularly come under attack in spite of a peace accord signed with Tuareg leaders in May and June 2015, aimed at isolating the jihadists.