A Mali leader announced on Sunday that he would reinstate the country's 1992 Constitution [text, PDF, in French] and create a transitional government to hold elections. Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, who led Malian soldiers in a military coup [JURIST report] last month, made the promise one day before the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) [official website] would meet to decide whether to impose economic sanctions [Reuters report] on the country. Sanogo, who has appointed himself as head of National Committee for the Reestablishment of Democracy and the Restoration of the State, may have aimed to delay the ECOWAS decision. His announcement surprised the international community, since last week his forces declared that they had drafted a new constitution [JURIST report] that they planned to implement. The military overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure [Al Jazeera profile] and ended 20 years of democracy because they felt Toure had failed to properly respond to Islamic rebel attacks, made primarily by Tuareg nomads, in the northern part of the country. However, the situation in the country worsened on Sunday when Tuareg rebels took control [AP report] of three northern cities, including Timbuktu, and pushed out Malian military forces.
Mali has experienced military turmoil since Taureg rebels began attacking Malian soldiers [Al Jazeera report] in January. Last week, the acting head of the EU delegation in Mali, Bertrand Soret, met with the Sanogo and urged a quick return to constitutional order [JURIST report]. Soret indicated that the EU expected the Malian military to find a solution to the current crisis, and that he has asked to have access to government ministers that have been detained by the military. Last month, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) [official website] said that more than 80,000 people had fled Mali [press release] to escape the fighting. In February, the UNHCR appealed for additional funds and resources [report, PDF] to deal with the crisis, after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon [official profile] expressed concern [statement] about the growing number of refugees in the region.