Mali protesters demand president's resignation over jihadist conflict, economy

A mass protest in Mali against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita descended into violence on Friday as protesters blocked main thoroughfares, attacked the parliament and stormed the premises of a state broadcaster.

Protesters demanding the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on July 10, 2020, in Bamako, Mali.
Protesters demanding the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on July 10, 2020, in Bamako, Mali. © Matthiew Rosier, REUTERS

One person was killed during the protest in the capital Bamako, officials said.

The protest, organised by a new opposition coalition, is the third such demonstration in two months – significantly escalating pressure on the embattled president.

Thousands initially gathered in a central square to demand the president resign over the country's long-running jihadist conflict and economic woes.

They then rallied outside the parliament and in the courtyard of a state broadcaster. 

The anti-Keita protest has alarmed the international community, which is keen to avoid the fragile West African state sliding into chaos.

Led by influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, the so-called June 5 movement is channelling deep-seated frustrations, heaping pressure on Keita, who unsuccessfully floated political reforms this week in a bid to appease opponents. 

Many protesters on Friday carried placards bearing anti-government slogans and blowing vuvuzela horns, AFP reporters saw. 

"We don't want this regime any more," said one of the demonstrators, Sy Kadiatou Sow. 

Protesters later erected barricades and set tyres alight on two of the main bridges across the river Niger that runs through Bamako, according to AFP journalists, and entered the courtyard of state broadcaster ORTM.

National guardsmen also fired tear gas at protesters hurling stones at the parliament building.

Mali has been struggling to contain an Islamist insurgency that first emerged in the north in 2012, before spreading to the centre of the country and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed, and hundreds of thousands of people have been forced from their homes.

New judges

Friday's demonstration follows an attempt by Keita on Wednesday to appease growing opposition to his government by offering to appoint new judges to the constitutional court. 

The court has been at the centre of controversy in Mali since April 29, when it overturned the provisional results for March's parliamentary poll for about 30 seats. 

That move saw several members of Keita's party elected to the parliament and triggered protests in several cities. 

It is also widely seen as having ignited the country's latest political crisis.

Keita suggested on Wednesday that appointing new judges would mean that the constitutional court could revisit its earlier decision.

However, opposition leaders had been demanding that the 75-year-old dissolve the parliament and form a transition government.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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