Presidents from five West African countries arrive in Mali on July 23 in an attempt to negotiate an end to a political crisis that affected the country and raised concerns it could undermine a regional security, and ongoing struggle against jihadists armed groups.
Endemic corruption, disputed local election results and army losses to jihadists cause massive indignation of Malians, when tens of thousands have taken to the streets, clashing with police. The episodes of urban violence caused death of protesters in July, according to the United Nations.
The opposition, a group called M5-RFP led by Saudi-trained Muslim cleric Mahmoud Dicko, announced it will not quit until President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita steps down, raising concerns in neighboring countries of a protracted political crisis.
“M5-RFP demands the resignation of Keita or the satisfaction of our demands,” which include the establishment of a committee of inquiry into civilian deaths and a transitional government, the spokesperson Nouhoum Togo told international reporters.
The leaders of Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Senegal, Ghana and Niger will meet with Keita and then Dicko and other opposition leaders at a hotel in the capital Bamako, according to the mission schedule.
They are concerned of the danger a destabilisation of Mali poses to the entire region of Sahel, plagued by activities of militia linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State attacking neighbouring countries including Niger and Burkina Faso.
Public opposition to Keita has changed to harder tones after protesters were killed by police in early July.
The M5-RFP rejected mediation measures proposed by a mission from the West African ECOWAS bloc last week.
The European diplomacy has issued a statement, supporting the African Union efforts to find a solution for the protracted political crisis:
“The good offices mission of President Goodluck Jonathan, at the head of an ECOWAS delegation in Bamako, made it possible to move forward towards a framework of concrete and politically balanced solutions.
“The European Union joins the African Union Declaration of July 21 and encourages all political actors and civil society to fully engage in the implementation of the recommendations of the ECOWAS mission. The re-establishment of a legitimate National Assembly and a Government of National Union will enable Mali to overcome the current crisis.
“The European Union deplores the large number of deaths and injuries following the demonstrations in Bamako on Friday July 10 and the following days. It offers its condolences to the relatives of the victims, calls for an investigation to be carried out as soon as possible and for legal proceedings to be taken against those responsible”.