Mali opposition says one protest leader detained
Bamako – Mali opposition groups on Saturday urged their supporters to remain mobilised after one of their leaders was detained in the wake of violent protests against the president that saw the temporary occupation of state buildings.
On Friday, police fired gunshots and tear gas to disperse protesters who had occupied parliament and the state broadcaster as part of a civil disobedience campaign aimed at forcing President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign for failing to tackle Mali’s security and economic problems.
“One protest leader, Issa Kaou Djim, was detained and remains in custody.
“M5-RFP calls on the Malian people to remain mobilised and determined in the hours and days to come,’’ a spokesman for the M5-RFP opposition coalition said.
The protest came after the coalition rejected concessions from Keita aimed at resolving a political stand-off that began after a disputed legislative election in March.
Mali’s neighbours and outside powers fear the impasse could further destabilise the country and jeopardise a joint military campaign against Islamist insurgents in the West African Sahel region.
According to the coalition, one protester was killed on Friday and over 20 wounded.
However, the police have not yet commented.
Keita issued a statement deploring the violence and said an investigation would be launched.
“However, I would like to reassure our people once again of my desire to continue dialogue and reiterate my readiness to take all measures in my power with a view to calm the situation down,” he said on Friday.
The opposition’s next steps are not known. The coalition plans to hold a press conference later on Saturday.
The streets of Bamako appeared largely quiet following the protest.
State television ORTM resumed broadcasting after going off air when its building was occupied.
“Social media platforms Twitter and Facebook were restricted on Friday, but internet access remained patchy’’ Internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said.