Mali protests enter 2nd day despite President’s call for talks

BAMAKO, MALI (AP) — Police fired tear gas last Saturday in Mali’s capital as scattered groups came out for a second straight day of anti-government protests, defying the President’s latest call for dialogue.

The turnout was far smaller than the thousands who surged through the streets last Friday, briefly occupying the state television station and setting fires.

At least three people had been killed and more than 70 wounded in the two days of demonstrations, according to a report from the Gabriel Toure Hospital in Bamako to government officials that was seen by The Associated Press (AP). There were also reports of arrests of opposition leaders.

Friday’s developments marked a major escalation in the growing movement against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who still has two years left in office in this West African country long destabilised by extremists.

His overnight address to the nation took a conciliatory gesture days after he had tried to appease the protesters by promising to revamp the constitutional court whose legislative election results in April have been disputed by several dozen candidates.

Anti-government protesters burn tyres and barricade roads in the capital Bamako, Mali. PHOTO: AP

“I would like once again to reassure our people of my willingness to continue the dialogue and reiterate my readiness to take all measures in my power to calm the situation,” he said.

The anti-government movement still wants the National Assembly dissolved. Its name, the June 5 Movement (M5), reflects the day demonstrators first took to the streets en masse.

While the group has officially backed down from its calls that Keita leave office, some protesters still want him gone.

“At this point, all possible scenarios are possible. We are in a cycle of ingovernability,” researcher and political analyst Baba Dakono told AP. “It is difficult now to say whether President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita can still benefit from the support of the army,” because the behaviour of the officers in contact with the troops can’t be predicted.

“Dialogue between the parties is necessary to break the deadlock,” he said.