Protesters staged another large demonstration in Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday after a coalition opposed to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita rejected concessions aimed at resolving a months-long political stand-off.
Thousands of protesters filled the city’s Independence Square, chanting and waving banners that said: “Enough is Enough” and “IBK, clear off”, referring to the president. It was the third mass protest in recent weeks.
The impasse since a disputed legislative election in March is a growing concern for Mali’s neighbours and outside powers, who worry it could further destabilise the country and jeopardise a joint military campaign against Islamist insurgents in the West African Sahel region.
On Wednesday Keita, or IBK as he is known, said he was open to form a government of national unity and renew members of Mali’s highest court, and if he could, dissolve the national assembly if it would not create a fresh crisis. But his opponents said the proposals were not enough. Protesters also gathered on Friday in Paris, which has a large Malian community.
Influential Muslim cleric Imam Mahmoud Dicko, one of the leaders of the opposition protest in Mali, told France24 television that they had dropped the demand for the president to resign but want further gestures from him. “This is because we think it (the resignation) will cause more problems than it will resolve,” Dicko said. “Mali’s problem is not about a government of national unity. It is a problem of governance.”
However, some protesters at the Bamako rally were still calling for the president to step down. “I see he can’t lead this country,” said 48-year-old storekeeper Alassane Cisse, who joined the protest despite once voting for Keita.
The protest follows two in June, when thousands gathered to demand that Keita resign for failing to offer solutions to the country’s security and economic crisis. Keita was re-elected in 2018 for a second five-year term, but his leadership has faced mounting opposition amid a surge in jihadist violence and economic crisis.