- The police fired teargas to disperse them, but the protesters set up roadblocks in an effort to prevent the officers from advancing.
- The opposition politician, Cheick Oumar Sissoko, delivered a speech that called on the president to step down.
- The protests have been dubbed "Movement of 5 June- Rally of Patriotic Forces."
Tens of thousands of protesters gathered in Mali’s capital, Bamako, calling for the resignation of the president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. They assembled in the city’s Independence Square, where they blew vuvuzelas and chanted slogans as they held placards with anti-government messages.
The police fired teargas to disperse them, but the protesters set up roadblocks in an effort to prevent the officers from advancing. During the rally, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, a prominent religious leader whose political star has been shinning, prayed. The opposition politician, Cheick Oumar Sissoko, delivered a speech that called on the president to step down.
A coalition of opposition group that is led by Dicko has been demanding political and economic reforms. Dicko had earlier stated that the demonstrations scheduled for Friday will go on.
“He hasn’t learned his lesson, he doesn’t listen to people,” Dicko said. “But this time he will understand.” It is alleged that the opposition sent to the president demanding his resignation. The resignation calls has been prompted by the rise in militants and inter-communal violence in the country.
Political tensions in the country began after the disputed legislative election that was held in March. The country’s economy is also said to be worsening amid the coronavirus pandemic. Corruption is another big problem in the country. The protesters said that not much was being done to fight corruption or fix the ailing economy.
This is the second protest this month. The first was held on June 5. The protests have been dubbed “Movement of 5 June- Rally of Patriotic Forces.” The president had earlier pledged to form a new government, inclusive of the opposition, but despite the negotiation between the two groups, the protests took place as scheduled.
The talks between the two side are being mediated by the West African Regional bloc, ECOWAS. The organization was instrumental in ensuring that the country returned to democracy in 2013, when Keita was elected. Keita secured his second five-year term in 2018.
Mali’s previous ruler, Amadou Toumani Touré, was overthrown in a military coup in 2012 after a decade in power. The French-led military operation ousted the Islamic extremists from power.
Throughout Keita’s leadership, the militants have been attacking the country’s military personnel and the United Nations peacekeepers. The militants, with links to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, have expanded the reach to central Mali, causing animosity and violence between ethnic groups in the region.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed by the insurgents, and hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes due to the ever rising insurgency. Last week, two United Nations peacekeepers, Egyptian nationals, were killed after unidentified armed men attacked their convoy. A day later, an ambush on military convoy left 24 soldiers dead and dozens more missing.
The violence in the country has since spread to its neighbors, Niger and Burkina Faso. According to UN figures, about 4,000 people were killed in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso in 2019, and thousands others displaced.