The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Saturday called out Mali to re-run some of its contested local elections and form a government of national unity after tens of thousands of people came out on the roads in anti-government protests in the capital Bamako, reports Reuters.
On Friday, the people of Mali joined anti-government protests all across the capital for the second time in a month to demand President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to step down. Re-elected in 2018 for a second five-year term, President Keita has been facing an ongoing security crisis, a strike by teachers and the coronavirus outbreak.
Political tensions in Mali increased after disputed local elections in March in which the voter turnout was very low due to fear of jihadist attacks. Vast swathes of central and northern Mali are used by the jihadists as a base for attacks in Mali and into neighboring Niger and Burkina Faso. The allegations of vote-buying and intimidation and the kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaila Cisse also overshadowed the polls.
ECOWAS “invites the Government of the Republic of Mali to reconsider the results of all the districts which have been subject to review,” the West African regional bloc said in a statement after a two-day mission to the country.
The group said new elections for the concernced constituencies should be organized as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also urged for peace and called for a dialogue after some opposition politicians howled for civil disobedience during Friday’s protests.
“The Secretary-General calls on all political leaders to send clear messages to their supporters to exercise utmost restraint and to refrain from any action likely to fuel tensions,” said Guterres’ deputy spokesman, Farhan Haq.
Mali has struggled to establish stability since 2012 when jihadist fighters hijacked an insurrection by Tuareg separatists, seizing the north. Although, the army was able to recapture the area with the help of French troop, violence still persists despite the presence of thousands of U.N. troops, with groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State stoking intercommunal tensions.