West Africa’s regional body ECOWAS calls for the Mali unity government to be “established rapidly” to resolve the country’s political crisis.
(African Stand) — West African leaders have called for the swift creation of a unity government in Mali and a fresh vote after disputed elections but warned of sanctions against those opposing efforts to end the country’s political crisis.
In a statement issued after a video conference on Monday, heads of the 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS stood by President Ibrahim Boubcar Keita but called for a unity government to be “established rapidly” and urged the opposition to join it.
Ministers in charge of defence, justice, foreign affairs, national security, and finance would be nominated before the unity government is created, it said.
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But – addressing demands by protesters that Keita quit –it also said the country’s democratic constitution had to be respected and asked an ECOWAS commission “to consider sanctions against all those who act contrary to the normalisation process of the crisis.”
President Keita has been locked in a standoff for weeks with the opposition June 5 Movement, and the conflict spiralled into violent clashes earlier this month, leaving nearly a dozen people dead.
Resignation of 31 lawmakers sought
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 conflict.
The summit called for the immediate resignation of the contested 31 MPs and the holding of by-elections in their constituencies.
In the meantime, parliament could continue to operate with the 116 other MPs.
Keita, who came to power in 2013, has come under increasing pressure to end Mali’s long-running militant conflict.
The poor nation of some 20 million people has been struggling to contain an insurgency that first emerged in the north in 2012 before spreading to its centre, as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died in the conflict, and hundreds of thousands of people have been driven from their homes.
But much of the current tension was sparked in April, when the constitutional court tossed out 31 results from the parliamentary elections, benefiting Keita’s party and sparking protests.
Tensions then snowballed into a crisis on July 10 when an anti-Keita rally organised by the June 5 Movement turned violent.
Protesters blocked bridges in Bamako, stormed the premises of the state broadcaster and attacked the parliament.
Three days of clashes between protesters and security forces followed, leaving 11 dead and 158 injured in the worst political unrest Mali has seen in years.