Friday, July 24, 2020

Mali Opposition Declares Truce Ahead of Regional Talks Over Crisis
2020/7/21 16:18:40

A Malian refugee shows a document at Burkina Faso's Goudebou camp on Saturday, northern Burkina Faso. The conflict in Mali has caused nearly 150,000 people to flee the country, while about another 230,000 are internally displaced, the UN humanitarian agency said on January 15. Photo: AFP

Mali's political opposition said it would halt protests in a "truce" ahead of the upcoming festival - Eid al-Adha - as four African presidents prepare to travel to the country this week for mediation talks to try and resolve a deepening crisis.

Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been locked in a standoff for weeks with the opposition June 5 Movement, and the conflict spiraled into violent clashes earlier in July, leaving nearly a dozen people dead.

Opposition figures have been tapping into a wellspring of anger over the president's perceived failures in tackling the dire economy, corruption and an eight-year jihadist conflict.

The leaders of Cote d'Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal and Niger will fly to the capital Bamako for talks on Thursday regarding the impasse, according to a Malian presidency official.

Nouhoun Sarr, one of the protest movement leaders, told AFP overnight Monday to Tuesday that the opposition has "decided to observe a truce on the subject of civil disobedience. This is to allow Malians to properly prepare for and celebrate Eid."

"During this period, there will be no more demonstrations. And as you also know, we are preparing to host the heads of state," he said.

The Muslim Eid al-Adha festival of animal sacrifice will begin at the end of July and lasts for several days.

Issa Kaou Djim, another protest movement figure, said the truce was a "very responsible and wise decision."

But the opposition did not soften its demands, issuing a statement on Monday evening that again called for the resignation of Keita.

Thursday's talks follow on the heels of a mediation mission from the West Africa bloc ECOWAS, which ended Sunday after failing to reconcile the president with the opposition.

Among other grievances, many Malians are incensed at the outcome of long-delayed parliamentary elections in March and April that handed victory to Keita's party.

But the current crisis came to a head on July 10, after an anti-Keita rally organized by the June 5 Movement turned violent.

Three days of clashes between protesters and security forces followed, leaving 11 dead and 158 injured, according to an official tally, in the worst political unrest Mali had seen in years.


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