Thousands turn out in show of support for Mali leader

Bamako (AFP) –


Thousands of supporters of Mali's leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita marched through the capital Sunday, a day after opponents held a protest against his re-election in a disputed presidential run-off.

Demonstrators brandished banners reading "Long live President IBK", "We want peace" and "Mali is one and inseparable".

"Mali belongs to all its sons, we need to avoid trouble," Aissa Traore, 35, told AFP.

Sunday's non-violent rally came two days ahead of Keita's inauguration for another five-year term.

The opposition refused to accept the outcome of the August 12 run-off election that pitted Keita against former finance minister Soumaila Cisse, charging voter fraud.

But the Constitutional Court rejected Cisse's petition against the result as being inadmissible or unsupported by evidence.

"The Constitutional Court has issued its verdict, everyone has to respect it. That too is democracy," Idrissa Coulibaly of Mali's National Youth Council, one of the organisations behind Sunday's rally, told AFP.

Organisers said "tens of thousands" of Keita supporters had turned up, while a police source spoke of "thousands of people".

Keita's swearing-in on Tuesday will be "a great celebration", a young female demonstrator told AFP.

The president won last month's ballot with 67.16 percent of the vote, while Cisse polled 32.84 percent.

The opposition has been organising regular weekend protests over the result.

It claims some 200,000 people joined Saturday's march in what it said was the "largest mobilisation" since the vote, but the authorities did not provide official figures.

Malians will go to the polls again in legislative elections on October 28, officials announced this week.

A second-round election is scheduled for three weeks later on November 18 in constituencies where no candidate receives an absolute majority of the votes.