Tens of thousands of people rallied in Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday to demand the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, heeding the call of the country’s newly resurgent opposition.
However, the 75-year-old president is under pressure over failures to contain a jihadist insurgency that emerged in northern Mali in 2012 and spread to the elegant center of the West African state.
Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.
But the sclerotic level of political reforms, a flagging economy, and a widely shared perception of government corruption have also fed anti-Keita sentiment.
On Friday, an imam dominated tens of thousands of protesters in prayer in a central city square.
Protesters then sang the national anthem and blew vuvuzela horns, with many toting placards bearing anti-government slogans.
Furthermore, the exhibition follows a similar rally on June 5 organized by a newly-formed coalition of opposition groups.
That coalition has since adopted the name, “Movement of June 5 – Rally of Patriotic Forces.”
Uniting religious leaders and civil society figures, the coalition is channeling deep-seated frustration about the slow rate of progress and continuing bloodshed.
At its head is Mahmoud Dicko, an imam and Islamic hardliner whose political star is rising in the war-torn country.
Similarly, the June 5 movement organized Friday’s protest, despite Keita’s pledge on Tuesday to form a new unity government that would include opposition figures.
However, Keita was elected president of the poor Sahel nation of some 19 million people in 2013 and won a second five-year term in 2018.
He has been pushed to make several concessions in recent days in response to mounting criticism, like raising the salaries of public teachers on Tuesday after a long-running pay dispute.
Similarly, the president also extended an olive branch to the political opposition on Tuesday, proposing to form a unity government.
But his efforts to convince opponents appear to have fallen on deaf ears.
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