Mali opposition to protest after rejecting mediators’ plan

BAMAKO, Mali (AP) — Mali’s political opposition called for more protests in the streets after rejecting a plan put forth by regional mediators for the creation of a unity government that stopped short of demanding the President’s resignation.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who still has three years left in his final term, faced demonstrations by tens of thousands seeking his resignation since early June in this volatile West African nation. His popularity has fallen amid allegations of corruption and as Mali’s extremist crisis deepened under his leadership.

Calls for his resignation intensified after recent protests met a violent response from security forces, leaving at least 12 people dead.

Protests were put on hold during talks with mediators from the 15-nation regional bloc known as ECOWAS but the opposition alliance known as the June 5 Movement called for protests to resume yesterday after it rejected the mediators’ proposals.

Opposition leader Choguel Maiga said the ECOWAS plan did not go far enough when it proposed that the 75-year-old Keita share power by forming a unity government. The proposal does not reflect the goals of a movement “supported by the overwhelming majority of the Malian people”, he said. However, ECOWAS does not see Keita’s negotiated exit as a possibility, chair Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said. “The resignation of the Malian President is a red line for us, but everything else is negotiable.”

Unlike some uprisings in West Africa, the crisis in Mali involves a president who was elected — and then re-elected — in elections deemed fair and transparent. Forcing the president to step down because of growing unpopularity could set a dangerous precedent for other leaders in the region.

Also among the suggestions from the ECOWAS team were some already endorsed by Keita: resolving the dispute over 31 contested legislative races several months after Mali’s constitutional court issued official results.

The President dissolved the controversial court, one of the protesters’ key demands. Keita said he is opening to re-holding the legislative election in those contested areas though no concrete plan has been laid out yet.

Anti-government protesters demonstrate in the capital Bamako, Mali. PHOTO: AP