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Amadou Toumani Touré, former president who steered Mali to democracy, dies at 72

Mali’s former president Amadou Toumani Touré, who led the Sahel nation for 10 years before being ousted in a coup, has died in Turkey aged 72, a close aide said on Tuesday.

Mali Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted from the Malian presidency in a military coup in 2012. (© Raveendran, AFP)
Mali Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted from the Malian presidency in a military coup in 2012. (© Raveendran, AFP)

A former army general, Touré won acclaim for pursuing democratic reforms after he helped topple the country’s longtime military ruler Moussa Traoré.

But he was himself ousted in a military coup in 2012, shortly before the country’s restive 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, providing no further details.

French-speaking magazine Jeune Afrique reported that Touré had previously undergone a heart operation in Bamako.

Senegal President Macky Sall tweeted: “I am heartbroken to learn of the death of His Excellency Amadou Toumani Toure, former president of Mali. I salute the memory of this renowned figure and present my deepest condolences to his family and the Malian people. May he rest in peace.”

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

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

Touré returned to the presidency in 2002, winning election with 65% of the vote, and was re-elected to a final five-year term in 2007. Touré was planning to step down when his second term expired in 2012.

During his presidency, Mali won international praise as a regional model of 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 Malians that elections were not as free and fair as international observers suggested.

That ultimately led to the March 2012 coup by mid-ranking officers, followed by the fall of northern Mali to jihadist militants later that year.

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