A social exasperation close to its height, a head of state personally challenged … Mali is going through severe political turbulence, at a delicate moment of international engagement against jihadism in the Sahel. An inventory.
Malian head of state Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta came out of his silence Sunday evening in a speech to the nation where he reached out to the motley coalition of religious leaders, politicians and civil society who contested its power . “I have followed with attention the recent events that have taken place in our country. I heard the angers and the cries, I heard the demands and the interpellations ”, declared president Keïta, on public television. “I am looking forward to meeting the actors of the June 5 Movement soon,” said the Malian leader, in power since 2013, in reference to this new coalition.
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The June 5 challenge
The coalition is made up of a movement led by Imam Mahmoud Dicko of the Front for the Safeguarding of Democracy (FSD), which brings together opposition parties, the main of which, Espoir Mali Koura (EMK) ), is a civil society movement led by the filmmaker and former Minister of Culture Cheick Oumar Sissoko.
An eminent religious figure and a staunch supporter of Islam, Mahmoud Dicko was close to President Keïta. Recently entering politics, he became a virulent critic of power.
The new coalition organized a gathering of tens of thousands of people on June 5 in Bamako. Several protesters held up signs calling for the resignation of President Keïta, who is supported by the international community in his war against the jihadists.
Tens of thousands of Malians took to the streets that day in Bamako, at the call of a motley alliance led by an influential religious leader. They said they were fed up not only with “death processions” caused by the spread of jihadist and inter-community violence, but also with “poor governance”, the “impoverishment” of a country already among the most poor people, dilapidated basic services and corruption. Protesters were holding up “IBK, get out!” ” Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta has been the president since 2013.
On the same day, 29 villagers were massacred in the center of the country.
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Why now ?
The discontent has been there for months. But the recent legislative elections and the decision of the Constitutional Court to reverse thirty proclaimed results, including ten for the benefit of presidential candidates, have exacerbated the frustrations. In a climate of mistrust, the dissatisfied saw in it a prefiguration of the presidential election of 2023 and an impossible way out of the crisis.
The coronavirus pandemic has made the nerves even more acute.
Political analyst Baba Dakono speaks of “confluences of crises”, mobilizing anti-corruption activists, representatives of civil society and teachers who have been in conflict for months. This time, the crises no longer converge on the Prime Minister, as in 2019, but the highest figure in the state, an ally of the international community and actors in the anti-jihadist fight in the Sahel.
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A moment that could count
“The crisis is of extreme gravity,” says analyst Ibrahim Maïga. “We knew that the anger was great. Today, she has a face, she has a spokesperson, ”in the person of Imam Dicko.
The rigorous and patriotic preacher, an eminent figure in public life, is now openly assuming his political commitment and has been fighting for months for “catastrophic governance” in Mali. In 2019, he participated in the sling against Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga, who was forced to resign. This time he took the head of a disparate alliance which cemented hostility to the Head of State.
Actors from the international community, including the United Nations and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have in recent days played good offices by meeting separately with MM. Keïta and Dicko.
Mali has been plagued since 2012 by a deep multifaceted crisis, security, political, economic. Separatist and jihadist insurgencies, as well as inter-community violence, have left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced.
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The preacher himself does not openly ask for the resignation of the president and has left the door open to dialogue. Speculation is rife about an upcoming meeting between the president and the imam.
– A resignation of the president is implausible, experts say.
– A dissolution of the Parliament “is only possible if IBK feels that its survival [politique] is in danger, ”says analyst Maïga.
– The hypothesis of the appointment of a new Prime Minister is ruled out, at least provisionally. The current head of government Boubou Cisse presented his resignation this week, according to the practice after the legislative elections. The president renewed him without making him play the role of fuse. A possible sign of presidential firmness. But the new government can also be an opportunity to play the opening.
Mali is, moreover, awaiting a new government, after the resignation on June 11, awaited after the legislative elections of March-April, of the team led by Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, reappointed.
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The worst not excluded
“The worst scenario would be to risk putting the crowd back on the street,” says Baba Dakono. Everyone, including the demonstrators, has in mind the specter of 2012 and the coup that precipitated Mali in a spiral that is still ongoing, recalls Ibrahim Maïga.
He notes that the leaders have control of the movement. And a lot of forces are at work to dissipate tensions. “I am not someone who breaks my country or who sets fire to my country,” said Imam Dicko to Radio France Internationale.
Supporters of the president canceled a counter demonstration in his favor. In contrast, the alliance of Imam Dicko calls for a new large demonstration next Friday to demand the resignation of IBK.
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