BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — The Mali coup leader who overthrew the country’s democratically elected president more than a year ago received a big promotion Wednesday to army general, an announcement made just days after the country chose a new president.
News of Amadou Sanogo’s new job title drew criticism from human rights activists who said he should instead face investigation into abuses committed by his loyalists after the March 2012 coup.
Lt. Col. Souleymane Maiga, the army’s head of public relations, confirmed the promotion of Sanogo, who was a captain at the time he and other mutinous soldiers overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure.
In becoming a general, Sanogo skipped over the army titles of commandant, lieutenant colonel and colonel. While he had handed over power nominally to a transitional civilian government, many critics said Sanogo continued to play a role behind the scenes in national politics.
The announcement of his promotion came just two days after Ibrahim Boubacar Keita became Mali’s president-elect when his opponent conceded defeat. Many observers felt Keita was the junta’s preferred candidate among the field of 28, though he had criticized the coup after it happened.
Mali’s coup paved the way for secular Tuareg rebels and later al-Qaida-linked militants to seize control of northern Mali. The radical jihadists were later ousted in a French-led military invasion.
The U.S. State Department has confirmed that Sanogo benefited from six training missions to the United States dating back to 1998, when he attended an infantry training course at Fort Benning, Georgia.
He returned in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010 to attend some of the most prestigious military institutions in America, including the Defense Language Institute at the Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He took a basic officer course at Quantico, Virginia, and learned to use a light-armored vehicle at Camp Pendleton, California.