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Date: 22 Mar 2012
Title: SA concerned at Mali unrest
Pretoria - South Africa says it remains concerned about the ongoing attacks in Northern Mali carried out by the secessionist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (NMLA), especially their impact on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region.
"It is our desire that the mutiny is addressed in a manner that does not jeopardise the overall security situation in Mali. This is particularly important in view of the security challenges in the North," the Department of International Relations and Cooperation said in a statement on Thursday.
Rebel troops have appeared on Malian state TV to announce they have seized control of the country, hours after attacking the presidential palace.
The soldiers said a nationwide curfew was in force and that the constitution had been suspended.
Reports say the unrest began at the Kati military camp in a suburb of Bamako. Soldiers fired their guns into the air after a meeting with Mali's defense minister that apparently went badly. At least two soldiers were wounded during the protest. United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon says he is following the unrest in Mali with "deep concern" after mutinous soldiers were reported to be firing weapons outside the presidential palace.
Pretoria called on the rebel group, especially the NMLA, to immediately cease hostilities and on government forces to maintain discipline and resolve their internal concerns in a peaceful manner and through internal procedures.
"In particular, senior military officers and political leaders being held hostage should be released immediately as an indication that the mutineers have the best intentions for the country and the army. The media should also be allowed to resume broadcasting to ensure calm and reassure citizens throughout the country," said the department.
It supported the AU's determination to support mediation efforts in search of a solution to the situation.
"It is critical that the various security and humanitarian issues confronting Mali are resolved urgently in order to enable the April 2012 elections to be held freely and fairly".
The South African Embassy in Bamako is closed, but all staff members are reported to be safe. -BuaNews