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Soldiers stand guard outside the presidential palace after a military coup in Bamako, Mali, on March 23, 2012. (Harouna Traore/AP)
Soldiers stand guard outside the presidential palace after a military coup in Bamako, Mali, on March 23, 2012. (Harouna Traore/AP)

International development

Canada halts aid to Mali after military coup Add to ...

Canada is suspending aid to the government of Mali after a coup by mutinous soldiers, in a move that could make a significant dent in the new regime’s budget if it does not cede power.

In a sharp reaction to the military takeover and suspension of the constitution, Ottawa is blasting “illegitimate rule” in a country where Canada has been a major donor, sending $109-million in aid last year. Mali is one of Canada’s biggest aid recipients, with much of the money passing directly through government coffers in Bamako.

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Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird said Friday that Canada’s “initial” response is cutting off aid that goes directly to Mali’s government.

“Canada utterly condemns this attack on democracy by a faction of Mali’s military,” he said in a statement. “We call on those behind this coup to put the needs of the Malian people first and to immediately withdraw so that constitutional order, peace and stability may be restored and aid resumed.”

The coup, by a group of soldiers that appear to be led by junior officers, has forced President Amadou Toumani Touré into hiding.

The mutineers moved one month before scheduled elections, complaining the government had failed to give the military the resources it needs to quell an ethnic Touareg insurgency in the country’s north. They arrested several members of Mr. Touré’s government and some looted the presidential palace, according to reports.

Money that goes through aid agencies will keep flowing. But cutting aid to Mali’s government is no small matter as Canada is a significant source of development funds in a country whose government revenues are only about $1.5-billion.

International Cooperation Minister Bev Oda said the Canadian government doesn’t want to “further add to the woes of the average Malian” but it has to ensure aid dollars are going where they are intended. “That’s simply not possible given the current climate.”

Canada gives some aid to Mali through regional programs, and in the 2010-11 fiscal year, $83.8 million in bilateral aid that goes to aid organizations or the Bamako government. Of that, $30 million went to government coffers for health and education.

Canadian government officials did not provide a figure Friday for the amount of direct aid to Mali’s government, but in the current fiscal year it has pledged $90-million to the government health ministry and $63.5-million over five years to its finance department for programs relating to the health of mothers and children, according to records of the Canadian International Development Agency. It’s not clear how much of that remains to be transferred.

The United States is also threatening to cut off about $70-million in direct aid to Mali’s government if it does not restore constitutional rule.

Canadian diplomats and aid workers remain in Mali, and hope to work with an elected government soon, Mr. Baird said. He called for the country’s disputes to be settled through “dialogue and democratic processes.”

Mali is one of Canada's largest aid recipients.

The coup, by a group of soldiers that appear to be led by junior officers, has forced President Amadou Toumani Touré into hiding.

The officers have complained the government failed to give it the military resources it needs to quell an ethnic Tuareg insurgency in the country’s north. They arrested several members of Mr. Touré's government and some looted the presidential palace, according to reports.

Canadian diplomats and aid workers remain in Mali and hope to work with an elected government soon, Mr. Baird said. He called for the country’s disputes to be settled through “dialogue and democratic processes.”

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