Tens of thousands of people rallied in Mali ’ s capital Bamako on Friday to demand the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita , heeding the call of the country’ s newly resurgent opposition.
The 75- year – old president is under pressure over failures to contain a jihadist insurgency that emerged in northern Mali in 2012 and spread to the fragile centre of the West African state.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died , and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes .
But the sclerotic pace of political reforms , a flagging economy and a widely shared perception of government corruption have also fed anti -Keita sentiment.
On Friday, an imam led tens of thousands of protesters in prayer in a central city square .
Protesters then sang the national anthem and blew vuvuzela horns, with many toting placards bearing anti -government slogans.
The demonstration follows a similar rally on June 5 organised by a newly – formed coalition of opposition groups .
That coalition has since adopted the name , “Movement of June 5 – Rally of Patriotic Forces. ”
Uniting religious leaders and civil society figures, the coalition is channelling deep -seated frustration about the slow pace of progress and continuing bloodshed .
At its head is Mahmoud Dicko , an imam and Islamic hardliner whose political star is rising in the war – torn country.
The June 5 movement organised Friday ’ s protest , despite Keita ’ s pledge on Tuesday to form a new unity government that would include opposition figures.
– ‘ He will understand ’ –
Keita was elected president of the poor Sahel nation of some 19 million people in 2013 , and won a second five – year term in 2018 .
He has been pushed to make several concessions in recent days in response to mounting criticism, like raising the salaries of public teachers on Tuesday after a long – running pay dispute .
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The president also extended an olive branch to the political opposition on Tuesday , proposing to form a unity government .
But his efforts to appease opponents appear to have fallen on deaf ears .
Dicko had earlier told reporters in Bamako that Friday’ s protest would go ahead come what may .
“ He hasn ’ t learned his lesson , he doesn’ t listen to people , ” he had said . “ But this time he will understand ” .
Mamadou Diakite, a 42 – year -old teacher at Friday’ s protest , that Keita had to step down .
“ We are here for the final victory , there is no negotiation possible , ” he said .
The sharpening political divide in Mali is worrying the country’ s neighbours .
A delegation from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc met Mali ’ s prime minister as well as opposition figures in Bamako on Thursday and Friday, in a bid to defuse tensions.
It called for the creation of a “ consensus government of national unity. ”
The delegation said a decision by the constitutional court in late April was the source of social – political tension in the country.
The court had overturned around 30 results from the elections in March and April, including a third benefiting candidates from the president ’ s party .
The delegation called for the government to review the results and hold new partial elections “ in the concerned districts as soon as possible . ”
Court sources said four of the nine members of the constitutional court handed in their resignations on Friday .
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