Why are people protesting in Mali?

On Sunday, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced the dissolution of the country's constitutional court, but it's unlikely to be enough

Four people have died in the country's worst civil unrest in years. AFP
Four people have died in the country's worst civil unrest in years. AFP

Four people were killed in violence that raged through Mali's capital, Bamako, on Saturday and into the night, as demonstrators push for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

On Sunday, Mr Keita announced the dissolution of the West African country's constitutional court to try to calm the unrest, but the opposition rejected the idea.

So what is going on? Here is what you need to know.

A hangover from the 2012 coup

The roots of Mali’s crisis go back to its French colonial past, but more recently to a military coup in 2012 that displaced democratically elected president Amadou Toumani Toure.

Under international pressure, the coup leaders handed power to a civilian transitional government that organised elections.

The coup left a power vacuum that Mr Keita struggled to fill.

He came to power after a French-led military operation to oust extremists in northern Mali’s towns in 2013, but the result was more extremist violence in the north and a stuttering economy.

What has sparked this recent unrest?

Mali has been gripped by its worst civil unrest in years after contested election results brought thousands of protesters on to the streets.

Demonstrations began on June 5, but trouble was brewing in the months before as Mali tried to hold an election against a background of kidnappings, coronavirus and extremist violence.

The first and second rounds of the parliamentary elections in March and April had low turnout as voters were scared by violence.

Opposition leader Soumaila Cisse was abducted, reportedly by extremists, three days before the first round and has not been released.

On April 30, Mali's constitutional court overturned the results for about 30 seats, 10 of which were to the benefit of candidates from the president's party, starting protests in several cities.

What do protesters want?

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has thus far refused to resign. Reuters
Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has thus far refused to resign. Reuters

The protests drew broad support and gained momentum in the five weeks they have been running.

They became the Movement of June 5 – Rally of Patriotic Forces after the first day of protest, which drew tens of thousands to the streets of Bamako.

The movement is critical of continued failures to stem Mali's extremist insurgency and inter-community bloodshed.

It also marches against the government's record on the economy, corruption and on organising legislative elections. Some on the streets called for Mr Keita to resign.

Violence broke out on June 10 in Bamako, killing four and injuring 70.

Demonstrators blocked main roads, attacked the Parliament building and stormed the premises of a state broadcaster. Protest leaders were arrested.

Has the movement achieved any change?

After small concessions, Mr Keita suggested a review of the court's decision but his offer was rejected.

The June 5 movement's leaders called for Parliament to be dissolved and urged civil disobedience.

On Sunday, Mr Keita announced the constitutional court would be dissolved and that he had repealed the licences of all remaining members of the court so that new judges could be appointed from next week.

"The reformed court can quickly help us find solutions to the disputes arising from the legislative elections," he said in a television address.

But protest movement spokesman Nouhoum Togo told Reuters: "We are not going to accept this nonsense. We demand his resignation, plain and simple."

Updated: July 13, 2020 02:42 AM

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