Mali’s police force had to fire tear gas to disperse civilian rule campaigners who gathered on the streets on Thursday before substantive talks over the country’s political future began in Bamako, reported Reuters.
The military rulers, who had been ruling Mali since the coup that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and civilian representatives last month, have launched a three-day “national consultation” with political parties, unions and members of civil society groups, to discuss plans for returning the country to civilian rule.
About 100 M5-RFP coalition supporters clashed with police at the entrance of the conference centre in the capital, delaying the start of talks.
The military junta wants the transitional government to be led by a military officer, while the M5-RFP and regional leaders have called for a civilian to take the role.
“They are trying to confiscate our revolution from us,” said Bakary Keita, a senior M5-RFP member. “We were very clear from the start. We want a civilian as president of the transition, not a soldier.”
The talks mark the second round of discussions between the military officers, political parties, civil society groups and other groups that led the protests and forced Keita to step down after weeks of protests against the country’s economic woes and spiralling security crisis.
The military government initially wanted a three-year transition period, corresponding to the time left in Keita’s second five-year mandate that would be overseen by a soldier.
The 15-nation regional bloc Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is insisting that the handover last 12 months maximum. He African bloc has set a hard line, closing borders, banning trade with Mali.
In the run-up to the talks, the ECOWAS has proposed that Mali’s civilian transition president and prime minister should be appointed before September 15 as a key condition in order to lift the imposed sanctions.