CHRISTIAN and Muslim leaders in Mali, West Africa, have appealed for calm, after five days of violent street protests in which 11 people were killed and more than 150 were injured.
Protests began after disputed provisional parliamentary elections in March were overturned by the constitutional court, although there is also anger at corruption, long-running conflict with armed Islamist fighters, and the state of the country’s economy. Protesters are calling for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to resign and a transitional government to be installed.
The Archbishop of Bamako, Cardinal Jean Zerbo, and other religious leaders went on the radio to call for peaceful dialogue. “Mali does not deserve what is happening now,” Cardinal Zerbo said. They also called for the release of opposition leaders who had been arrested during the protests.
The leader of the High Islamic Council of Mali, Chérif Ousmane Haïdara, said that the current situation would “only aggravate the country’s difficulties”.
Four presidents from the West African region were due to fly into Mali yesterday for a summit to try to mediate between the opposition and President Keïta. Before their visit, one of the leaders of the protest movement, Nouhoum Sarr, told the AFP news agency that the opposition had “decided to observe a truce on the subject of civil disobedience. This is to allow Malians to properly prepare for and celebrate Eid.
“During this period, there will be no more demonstrations. And, as you also know, we are preparing to host the heads of state.”
The former President of Nigeria Goodluck Jonathan has been appointed as a special envoy by the Economic Community of West African States. Its suggestion of a national unity government in Mali was rejected by protesters, who said that they would not accept any outcome that did not include President Keïta’s departure.
Other African nations fear that the political instability in Mali could spread, and further fuel the Islamist insurgency that has caused the death of thousands of civilians in the north and has already crossed borders into neighbouring Burkino Faso and Niger.