Former military ruler Amadou Toumani Toure was known as Mali’s “soldier of democracy,” but found himself ousted by mutinous soldiers just one month before wrapping up his time in office.
The 63-year-old, affectionately known as “ATT,” had been unable to stamp out growing resentment among army officers over his government’s handling of a Tuareg insurrection in the north of the country.
As a mutiny erupted, Toure came under siege late Wednesday at his presidential palace as a junta announced on state television it had overthrown his “incompetent” government.
He was able to flee and his aides said Thursday that he was unharmed and under the protection of loyalist members of the presidential guard at a military camp in Bamako.
It is an ignominious end for a man hailed for his role in bringing about multi-party democracy to the country.
Toure ran Mali during a transitional period for slightly over one year in the early 1990s after overthrowing the dictatorial regime of Moussa Traore.
In 1992, he returned power to civilian rule and opened the way for the first democratically elected president.
The poll that year brought Alpha Oumar Konare to power. Konare stood down in 2002 at the end of his second five-year term in office to take up the chairmanship of the African Union Commission.
A year before standing for the presidency in 2002, Toure was U.N. special envoy to the Central African Republic after an unsuccessful coup attempt there. He has also mediated in the Great Lakes region crisis.
With the support of 30 political groupings, the former coup leader won the 2002 polls, winning re-election in 2007 with 68 percent of the ballots.
He won kudos for his decision to step down after serving his two terms, a point at which many African leaders attempt to stay in power.
Toure also introduced a raft of constitutional reforms, to be decided upon during a referendum held at the same time as April 29 elections, which had been praised as a model for the continent.
One of the key changes would be the institutionalization of the status of the opposition, giving the leader rank and privileges - on a continent where all the money is seen to be in obtaining the top job, leading to greed and corruption.
The retired general was born in 1948 in the central Mali region of Mopti and took up military studies at home, in France and Russia. He has a passion for football.
He enjoyed excellent ties with the United States which has donated millions of dollars for the development of health and education in the vast and partly arid country, and also providing support in the fight against al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
After gaining independence from France in 1960 Mali was led by president Modibo Keita until he was overthrown in 1968 by Moussa Traore.
After more than two decades in power, Traore’s regime was overthrown by an armed insurrection in March 1991 led by Toure. Several hundred people died and thousands were wounded.
Toure’s regime came under increasing pressure in recent weeks as the ongoing al-Qaeda scourge was compounded by an insurrection of the nomadic Tuareg tribe in the north which has forced over 200,000 people to flee.