UN, Europe Union and African states call for calm in Mali
At least 11 protesters were killed over two days as they clashed with security forces
The United Nations, European Union, African Union and the West African regional bloc Ecowas have called for calm in Mali after at least 11 civilians were killed in a security crackdown on anti-government protests.
The organisations "condemn the use of lethal force in the context of maintaining public order and invite all stakeholders to exercise restraint", their representatives in Mali said on Sunday.
President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 75, is facing a mounting wave of protests triggered by the constitution court's decision to overturn the results of about 30 seats in the long-delayed parliamentary poll held in March and April, benefiting several members of the president's party. Mr Keita was already unpopular over the government's handling of the economy and failure to quell an extremist insurgency.
The protests in the capital, Bamako, and other cities turned violent at the weekend, leaving 11 people dead and 124 injured, a senior official at the emergency department of a major hospital in Bamako told Agence France-Presse.
The demonstrations are being driven by a disparate group of religious, political and civil society leaders who have come together under the umbrella of the June 5 Movement, or 5M. They have called for "civil disobedience", including non-payment of fines and blocking entry to state buildings.
The four-party front voiced support for proposals put forward by Ecowas, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States of which Mali is a member, including a "consensus government of national union" and fresh elections in constituencies where the court overturned the results.
Mali's European allies as well as its neighbours are deeply concerned at the escalating crisis, given the country's poverty, ethnic mix and strategic location at the heart of the Sahel region.
International and regional powers fear that political turmoil in Mali could undermine their military campaigns against extremist militant groups in the region. The United Nations has more than 13,000 peacekeeping soldiers in Mali.
French Defence Minister Florence Parly said a joint EU special operations force formed to back Mali's fight against extremists would arrive in the country on Wednesday.
About 100 French and Estonian troops will initially make up the force called Takuba, Ms Parly said on Sunday.
A second contingent of about 60 Czech soldiers will arrive in October, to be followed by about 150 Swedish troops in January 2021, she said.
"Italy has just indicated its wish to join us," she said.
The entire Sahel region is witnessing increasingly brazen attacks by extremist groups despite the beefing up of national armies and the deployment of 5,100 French anti-terrorism troops.
Extremist and inter-ethnic violence in Mali and neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso killed at least 4,000 people in 2019, according to the United Nations.
Updated: July 13, 2020 04:46 PM