Mali's fracturing ethnic divides
A few trips to a military base on the outskirts of the capital, revealed a lot to me about the ethnic and political divide in the west African country of Mali.
The base is the headquarters of a mid ranking officer who paraded on the national stage in a daring and unprecedented way.
Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo was frustrated with an army in disarray, a Tuareg rebellion gaining ground in the north and a corrupt political elite. One night in the base he told his colleagues enough was enough and that something had to be done.
On Wednesday, March 21 at around 9pm, gunshots shattered the quiet night of Bamako - it took people a few hours to realise that a group of disgruntled soldiers had taken control of the presidential palace and TV building. It was a coup.
A group of officers appeared on television explaining the motives behind the coup, and a few days later I met with the coup leader.
A young officer, surrounded by loyal soldiers, he was in the midst of hectic meetings with dignitaries, ambassadors, army officers - all wanting to know the new powerful man.
What caught my attention first was his constant reference to the "corrupt regime of Amadou Toumani Toure" and a nonchalance towards international reaction. He would always say "people support me because they also suffered".
But a dramatic twist of events forced Sanogo to reconsider his plans. The north was captured by Tuareg rebels and radical groups suspected of having strong links with al Qaeda in North Africa.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS imposed an embargo on the military junta and dispatched top military commanders with a stern warning: step aside or face war.
Captain Sanogo and his colleagues understood that with a defeated army, a divided country, and a resilient international community, defying the world will be suicidal.
A deal brokered by ECOWAS was sealed, and a new interim president was sworn in amid fresh hopes that this is the end of Mali's woes.
Interim President Dioncounda Traore, has all the credentials to steer his country away of trouble. He was a former army officer, minister of foreign affairs, minister of defence and recently, speaker of the parliament.
He finds himself in an incredibly awkward situation. He has to run the country for a transitional period of 48 days during which he has to push the rebels out of the areas they control, restore territorial unity, organise pluralistic elections and when all is hunky dory, leave the political scene.
However, from my three weeks in the country and countless of conversations with officials and ordinary people, I am afraid that task is too daunting to be achieved in the near future.
Politically the country is divided along ethnic lines. Sanogo and his soldiers originate from Segou a city in the south inhabited by Bambaras, the largest ethnic group in the south of Mali.
Traveling north, you encounter a totally different ethnic makeup; the Songhays, the Peulhs, the Arabs, the Tuaregs, the Bozos and the Dogons.
It's in this vast area that stretches from Kidal to Timbuktu that the Tuaregs have been fighting a guerilla war for an independent state which they call Azawad.
A dream that has eluded them for generations but has become a near reality with their Azawad flag flying over Kidal, Gao, and Timbuktu which they control now.
The Bambaras accuse the Tuaregs of colluding with the Arabs to breakaway from the rest of the country.
Building trust between the different ethnic groups is, according to many, the key to establishing permanent stability in Mali. But if the ethnic divide remains, Malians may soon find themselves bogged down in a new political impasse.