Thousands of protesters in Mali call for resignation of president

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The influential Imam Mahmoud Dicko addresses the protesters in Bamako on June 5.
The influential Imam Mahmoud Dicko addresses the protesters in Bamako on June 5. MICHELE CATTANI / AFP

Malians descended by the thousands on the Independence Square in the center of Bamako this Friday, June 5. To the sound of whistles, vuvuzelas and a brass band, the demonstrators took up the slogans chanted by a speaker perched on a platform: “IBK resignation!” IBK get out! “.

This injunction, addressed to the Malian president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), was formulated on the initiative of a new coalition which gathers a broad section of the political opposition of the country, the influential imam Mahmoud Dicko and his religious movement CMAS, to anti-corruption activist Clément Dembélé supported by the civil society movement Espoir Mali Koura (EMK), via the Front for the Safeguarding of Democracy (FSD).

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In the final declaration of this “Gathering of the patriotic forces of Mali”, the organizers blame the head of state, in power since 2013 and re-elected for a second term in 2018, a “Chaotic governance” who threatens to “Throw our country into a dead end”. The book of grievances is thick and covers almost the entire field of sovereign power: “Catastrophic management of the multidimensional crisis in Mali; attack on the integrity of the territory; unprecedented deterioration of social services; growing impoverishment of working people; financial mismanagement; corruption… “.

“No one received a mask”

In the crowd, the visible signs echo some of these criticisms and add others, demanding ” the release of all political prisoners “, “More money for education” or “The end of the coronavirus”. “He manages the country with his son, his wife and his clan, Ton Madi Diarra, the fast pace and the loose t-shirt. The problem is that this caste does not know the realities of the country, they do not suffer the crisis like us. “ The protester claims, however, to have voted twice for IBK, in the presidential elections of 2013 and 2018 as well as for his party in the legislative elections in April. Decision he bitterly regrets: “Today, he no longer even listens to his own camp. “

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By mid-afternoon, there were approximately 20,000 protesters, almost none of whom wore masks, despite the Covid-19 pandemic that infected 1,461 people and killed 85 in the country. “We shouldn’t be there, because there is the corona, launches Diawara Issaka. The president had promised a mask to every Malian but no one here has received one, he is a liar. So we come here to challenge this lie like everyone else. “ A small group forms around him, nodding: ” We are fed up. We heads of families have had no salary for three months. ”

Invited to resign Friday at 6 p.m.

On the platform, representatives of the rally follow one another on the podium. The most acclaimed is Mahmoud Dicko, a political-religious leader holding a quiet Salafism, a former close friend of the president, now an energetic opponent, known for his ability to mobilize and his outbursts. In March, his followers blocked the district court of commune V of Bamako where the imam was summoned.

“Insecurity has doubled, there is daily fighting in the north and in the center, more than 250 billion are diverted by corruption. (…) The president must leave now “, Clément Dembélé, anti-corruption activist

Under pressure, the government was withdrawing the complaint regarding remarks made during a demonstration. The other leader of the rally, Clément Dembélé, suffered another fate. On May 9, he was kidnapped in the middle of the street by the general directorate of state security, then questioned for fifteen days under extrajudicial conditions, on a suspected conspiracy against the president.

“This demonstration is a constitutional right, supports Clément Dembélé. The regime must be shown the exasperation of the Malian people. Insecurity has doubled, there is daily fighting in the north and in the center, more than 250 billion are siphoned off by corruption, there is no more job opportunity and this is causing Malians to emigrate. We can no longer wait until 2023 and the end of the president’s term of office, he must leave now. “

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The organizers called on IBK to resign no later than 6 p.m. on Friday, otherwise “The sovereign people will draw all the consequences”, specifies the final declaration of the gathering. The Koulouba hill where the presidential palace is located obviously remained silent at this call. Thanks to a heavy storm, the place of independence was calmly emptied. The stinging rain showered the cries of anger, even those of the most motivated demonstrators.

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