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."