The latest round of anti-government protests began on Friday, led by M5-RFP (July 5 Movement-Rally of Patriotic Forces), a coalition of opposition politicians, religious leaders and activists calling for civil disobedience.
But demonstrations have taken place on and off in the capital since June, with many calling for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta.
“[Protesters are] against the background of general dissatisfaction related to the deterioration of the security situation in the country, and also the rough management of the health crisis."
“They’re against the background of general dissatisfaction related to the deterioration of the security situation in the country, and also the rough management of the health crisis,” said Nadia Adam, a Bamako-based researcher at the Institute for Security Studies.
In recent years, Mali has experienced a combination of security challenges — namely, growing violence by armed militias and terrorist groups that has displaced more than a million people in the Sahel region and killed thousands, including Malian and foreign troops.
While the Malian government, along with international and regional partners, has intensified counterterrorism campaigns in the Sahel, the problem has only become more complex, now threatening to spill over to other West African states.
The continued violence has frustrated Malians, who have also been subject to human rights abuses by government forces.
On June 10, Amnesty International said Mali’s military had unlawfully arrested and executed civilians during counterterrorism operations earlier this year.
President Keïta called for an end to the days of civil unrest, which has seen protesters briefly occupy Mali’s state media building and damage other government buildings.
The African Union, United Nations, and other bodies have also criticized police’s use of lethal force in the latest protests, which have also seen social media and messaging apps partially blocked according to Netblocks. Opposition leaders were reportedly arrested as well.
In a televised statement over the weekend, President Keïta offered some new political concessions in a bid to quell the civil discontent.
“I have decided to repeal the licenses of the remaining members of the constitutional courts,” he promised. The constitutional courts have been controversial since it tossed out provisional results of legislative elections that took place in March.
“This decision will enable the organization of partial legislative elections in the districts where the results were invalidated by the constitutional courts,” explained Adam.
The elections, which had low turnout, were strained by the coronavirus pandemic, continued militia attacks, and the abduction of Mali’s main opposition leader Soumaïla Cisse by a suspected al-Qaeda linked militia.
The government also made other promises.
“The president has proposed a political agreement and the formation of a government of national unity,” Adam said.
That might not be enough for demonstrators calling for President Keïta’s resignation.
Adam said demonstrations continued on Monday, and she could hear gunshots from her home.
Correction: The radio version of this story misstated the date when Amnesty accused Mali’s military of killing civilians. They released the report on June 10, not July 10.