Tens of thousands of Malians took to the streets of Bamako on Friday to call for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, whose government is accused of corruption and failing to stem rising violence in northern and central parts of the country.
Police fired tear gas at attendees, who are protesting for the second time this month in a campaign organised by a coalition of opposition and civil society groups that includes the influential cleric, Mahmoud Dicko.
As pressure mounts on Keita, known as IBK, a delegation of regional leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has called for the creation of a national unity government.
The delegation also urged the government to re-run parts of a recent legislative election after some results were overturned by the country’s constitutional court in a ruling that benefited Keita’s party and has deepened political tensions.
Keita was re-elected for a second five-year term in 2018 but has struggled to halt attacks by extremists linked to the so-called Islamic State and al-Qaeda, and rising inter-communal violence that has displaced hundreds of thousands. A 2015 peace agreement between the Malian government and armed groups continues to stagnate.
Following the protests on Friday, UN chief António Guterres appealed for calm.
"The secretary-general calls on all political leaders to send clear messages to their supporters to exercise utmost restraint and to refrain from any action likely to fuel tensions," said Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for Guterres.
– Philip Kleinfeld