MONTREAL  - Canada said Saturday it was suspending aid to Mali following a military coup that it condemned as an “attack on democracy.” Ottawa said it was immediately suspending aid programs involving direct payments to the Bamako government, while payments made through humanitarian aid agencies and non-governmental groups will continue. “Canada utterly condemns this attack on democracy by a faction of Mali’s military,” said Foreign Minister John Baird. “We call on those behind this coup to immediately withdraw so that constitutional order, peace and stability may be restored.”
Canada is one of Mali’s biggest donor countries, with aid reaching some $109 million last year.
The shock coup was led by a group of low-ranking soldiers who say their takeover was sparked by government’s inability to deal with a Tuareg-led insurrection in the north, which has overwhelmed the military who claim they are ill-equipped to fight the desert nomads.
“Given the current climate, it is not possible to distribute Canadian aid dollars effectively and as intended,” said International Cooperation Minister Beverley Oda. “We stand with the Malian people and urge those responsible to put the needs of the Malian people first.”
In a joint statement, Oda and Baird lashed out at the junta’s “illegitimate rule.”
“Given Canada’s long and productive relationship with Mali, we hope this crisis is resolved quickly and that this suspension will last no longer than absolutely necessary,” they said. “But Canada will not in any way back this illegitimate rule.”
As international condemnation poured in against the coup, the United States warned on Friday that its $70 million economic and military aid could be compromised as well if military coup leaders fail to restore democratic rule in the country.