Thousands of Malians take to the streets in support of coup leaders

By Idrissa Diakité

Bamako, Aug 21 (efe-epa).- Hundreds of thousands of Malians took to the streets of Bamako on Friday to express their firm support for the military coup leaders who overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Tuesday, dissolved the National Assembly and took the government members into custody.

In the march, convened by the M5-RFP opposition coalition, which represented a major threat for the IBK in recent months, Malians were carrying banners that read “Long Live Mali” and “Long live CNSP” (National Committee for the Salvation of the People), while denouncing France and the UN mission MINUSMA.

When some of the CNSP leaders reached the main square, they were greeted as heroes by the protesters amid chants and the sound of vuvuzelas.

Apart from appointing Colonel Assmi Goita as the CNSP president, the coup leaders have not yet revealed their plans or deadlines for the political transition that they promised in their first televised appearance. However, this has not prevented the coup from being applauded by a wide swath of the population.

The organizers decided to convene the rally after the weekly prayer on Friday at the capital’s Independence Square, where most demonstrations against the regime would take place in the last three months. This time, however, the general impression is that Friday’s march exceeded all expectations regarding the affluence of people.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), to which Mali belongs, was the target of the protesters’ insults after this regional body held an extraordinary summit on Thursday to “categorically deny any form of legitimacy to the coup plotters”, suspend Mali from the decision-making bodies of ECOWAS and call for the reinstatement of President Keita.

The possibility that ECOWAS would impose an embargo on Mali had caused great interest. Finally, African leaders stayed half-way asking to stop all financial, economic and commercial transactions with Mali, except for basic necessities, medicines and equipment against COVID-19 as well as petroleum products and electricity.

“ECOWAS threats do not scare us,” Choguel Maiga, one of the main leaders of the M5-RFP coalition, said during the rally; “we are not afraid of anyone, we don’t have anything to hide (…) It is the people’s fight which has led to IBK’s resignation”.

The international community has condemned the coup and demanded the release of Keita and all members of the government, claiming their right to a fair trial.

MINUSMA informed on Twitter that a human rights team visited IBK and other detainees on Thursday, although the UN Mission in Mali did not give any details about his health or psychological condition.

Several clashes between the Arab and Tuareg minorities and also between black-African groups took place on Thursday night in the city of Gao.

This inter-ethnic tension, aggravated by the existence of armed tribal or ethnic militias, is one of the great challenges the military coup will have to face to convince Mali’s people, who have already denounced the lack of state presence in the country’s eastern regions.

The Coordination of Azawad Movements (CMA) expressed cautious support by in a statement released on Thursday, in which it acknowledged the new situation and reaffirmed its commitment to respect the Algiers Accord.

These accords serve as the basis for reconciliation and the fragile peace between the Tuareg movements and the Malian state, although they have not succeeded in either extending the authority of the state throughout the whole territory or disarming the militias. EFE-EPA


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