President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who still has three years left in his final term, has faced demonstrations by tens of thousands seeking his resignation since early June in this volatile West African nation.
Mali's political opposition has 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, has 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 security crisis has deepened under his leadership.
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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 Monday after it rejected the mediators' proposals.
Amid signs of an impasse, Ivorian President Alassane Ouattara also made plans to arrive Monday in Mali’s capital of Bamako.
Opposition leader Choguel Maiga said the ECOWAS plan didn't 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,” he said on Sunday.
We end our week worried about events in #Mali. As @CrisisGroup @mathpellerin says, despite growing international calls for negotiations protesters could very well stay in the streets angered by both the president's response and the accompanying security crackdown pic.twitter.com/s0BpKUSawX— Comfort Ero (@EroComfort) July 17, 2020
Fair and transparent elections
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 has dissolved the controversial court, one of the protesters' key demands. Keita has said he is opening to re-holding the legislative election in those contested areas though no concrete plan has been laid out yet. The mediators, though, said their recommendations should be put into place this month.
The powerful regional bloc has a long history in mediating in Mali. It helped bring about a return to democracy in 2013, a year after a military coup deposed the president of a decade.
France led a military operation to oust militants from northern Mali not long before Keita took office in 2013. In the years since, those militants have continued to launch attacks on Malian forces and UN peacekeepers. Militants also have gained a foothold in central Mali where their presence has inflamed tensions between ethnic groups.
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I am encouraged with the optimism we are getting from Malian elders and statesmen and their explicit trust in our mediation. The search for sustainable peace in Mali is a task that must be accomplished. GEJ pic.twitter.com/83CanDwaGf— Goodluck E. Jonathan (@GEJonathan) July 17, 2020
Mali crisis mediators fail to win over opposition
West African mediators proposed a route out of Mali's political crisis on Sunday, but admitted the opposition's main demand was a significant stumbling block.
ECOWAS team chief and former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan said the West Africa bloc could not call for Keita's resignation, as demanded by the opposition.
"We met with the M5 four times and we couldn't resolve our differences," he said, referring to the opposition June 5 Movement.
"ECOWAS cannot come to Bamako and see to the setting up of an interim government," he added, explaining that this would trigger a "major crisis".
"We have to take one step at a time."
Today, my team continued with our consultation with key stakeholders in the Malian crisis. My meetings with the M5 coalition, the Presidential Majority group and other leaders were fruitful. pic.twitter.com/yL6kNc2gOk— Goodluck E. Jonathan (@GEJonathan) July 16, 2020
President Keita and the June 5 Movement — which is set on his resignation — are locked in a political standoff that last week spiralled into violent clashes, leaving 11 dead.
On Sunday, the mediators from ECOWAS capped days of talks between the parties and proposed a raft of measures to soothe soaring tensions.
These included forming a new power-sharing government under which 50 percent of members would be from the ruling coalition, 30 percent from the opposition and 20 percent from civil society groups.
But the prospect of the proposals ending the impasse looked highly uncertain.
The June 5 Movement had already spurned proposals put to them by the mediators on Friday, after days of talks, insisting that Keita must resign.
The opposition alliance has been tapping into deep-seated frustrations in Mali over the 75-year-old president's perceived failures in tackling the dire economy, corruption and the country's eight-year-long militant conflict.
Many Malians are also incensed at the outcome of long-delayed parliamentary elections in March and April that handed victory to Keita's party.
AFP was unable to immediately reach either Mali's government or the June 5 Movement for comment.
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