Mali protests

Mali opposition rejects unity government, maintains call for president to quit

Anti-government protesters demonstrate in the capital Bamako, Mali on 10 July 2020.
Anti-government protesters demonstrate in the capital Bamako, Mali on 10 July 2020. AP - Baba Ahmed

Mali’s opposition has dismissed a plan proposed by the Ecowas regional bloc mediation team to form a unity government, pushing for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who has been the target of weeks of demonstrations. 


Mali’s problems “are linked to problems of governance”, said one Ecowas negotiator, according to Bamako correspondent Serge Daniel.

The West African mediation team, led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, has proposed three things. 

The first element is quickly reforming the country’s constitutional court so that it can once again rule on the results of the last parliamentary election. 

Thirty-one MPs must be reinstated by the constitutional court, after the results of their constituencies were overturned by judges – one of the bones of contention for the protest movement. Fresh polls or new elections for certain lawmakers have been ruled out.

The second proposal is to create a government of national unity with quotas for the various portfolios, comprising 50 percent of the ruling party, 30 percent for the opposition and 20 percent for civil society. Jonathan’s mediation team does not suggest the prime minister leave his post. 

And an investigation should be carried out into the violence, shooting of protesters and destruction of public property that took place during recent protests. At least 11 people were killed and the country’s anti-terrorist special forces were deployed on the streets. 

Opposition objections

The Ecowas team hopes everything can be put in place by 31 July so that Mali can get back on track. However, the opposition M5-RFP group is far from securing its main demand, the resignation of President Keita, or IBK, as he is commonly known. 

Ecowas noted in a statement the “necessity to respect the institutions of the republic, notably the means to accede to power constitutionally”. 

“First of all, I think Ecowas didn’t analyse the situation properly, it was very superficial in its approach,” said Choguel Maïga, one of the spokespeople for the M5-RFP opposition group.

“The country has been taken hostage by an oligarchy, which has taken away all the power. All the institutions are paralysed,” said Maïga, president of the Patriotic Movement for Renewal party. 

“We'll continue civil disobedience until the resignation of Mr Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, that’s our position today,” he added. 

“Seeing as dialogue continues, we hope that with our brothers from the M5-RFP we can find a common denominator, which enables us to carry out reforms,” said Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, president of the Ecowas commission. 

Is removing Keita through protests constitutional?

Sahel analyst Alex Thurston has questioned whether the resignation of IBK would be constitutional

“What is ‘extra-constitutional’ about demanding that IBK resign?” questioned Thurston, a specialist on Islam and politics at the University of Cincinnati, referring to comments by US diplomats about the president resigning. 

“Article 36 contains provisions for what happens if there is a vacancy in the presidency, but nowhere do I see a constitutional restriction against a president resigning,” said Thurston, writing on his website Sahel Blog

“Now, what if he resigns under massive pressure from the street? I still don’t see why that’s ‘extra-constitutional’,” he added. 

Ecowas mediator Jonathan landed in Bamako to kick off mediation on 15 July. Mali’s protest movement against IBK started on 5 June with a group of politicians, civil society and religious leaders forming an opposition coalition against the incumbent. 

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