Mali junta postpones transfer of powers meeting as cracks emerge

Agence France-Presse, Agence France-Presse
Mali junta postpones transfer of powers meeting as cracks emerge

This video frame grab image obtained by AFP from ORTM (Office de Radiodiffusion-Télévision du Mali) on August 19, 2020 shows Malian military coup leaders, who seized power in Mali and pushed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta to resign, during a press conference. - Mali awoke on August 19, 2020, to a new chapter in its troubled history after rebel military leaders forced Malian President Boubacar Keita from office, prompting its West African neighbours to threaten border closures and sanctions against the coup leaders. Keita, embattled by months of protests over economic stagnation, corruption and a brutal Islamist insurgency, said he had resigned to avoid bloodshed. (Photo by - / ORTM / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY CREDIT "AFP PHOTO /ORTM " - NO MARKETING - NO ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS - DISTRIBUTED AS A SERVICE TO CLIENTS - NO RESALES

The June 5 Movement protest coalition claims the junta is 'in the process of drifting away from the people'

Mali’s military junta on Saturday, August 29, postponed the first meeting on the transfer of power after rising tensions with the group that sparked the August 18 coup.

The junta had invited civic groups, political organizations, and former rebels to consultations on Saturday, but said in a statement that the meeting was postponed at the last minute to a later date due to “organizational reasons.”

A protest coalition that had campaigned against former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the June 5 Movement, was not invited to the meeting and accused the new military rulers of trying to hijack the coup.

The group has demanded that the military junta give it a role in the transition to civilian rule, in keeping with its role in spearheading Keita’s ouster. The military has promised to do so, though without a timetable.

“We state with bitterness that this junta which had sparked hope in the hearts of all Malians… is in the process of drifting away from the people,” said Tahirou Bah, from the Espoir Malikoura association, one of the pillars of the June 5 movement.

The June 5 movement said they had been summoned later Saturday to the Kati military barracks near the capital to meet with the junta leaders.

‘No carte blanche’

After an escalating series of mass protests, young army officers mutinied on August 18, seizing Keita and other leaders and declaring they now governed the country.

The coup shocked Mali’s West African neighbors and ally France, heightening worries over instability in a country already struggling with an Islamist insurgency, ethnic violence, and economic malaise.

Mali’s influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, a key player in the mass opposition protests that led to Keita’s ouster, said Friday, August 28, that the new military rulers did not have “carte blanche.”

“We will not give a blank cheque to anyone to run this country, that’s over,” he said.

“We led the fight,” he said. “People have died and the soldiers who have completed [this fight] must keep their word.” 

Dicko’s spokesman Issa Kaou Djim later expanded on this, saying the imam “said the people have started to doubt” the junta.

“A revolution cannot be confiscated by a group of soldiers,” he said. 

His comments came as a new document published on the Malian government’s Official Journal said the junta’s head had been effectively invested with the powers of head of state. 

West African leaders on Friday demanded an immediate civilian transition and elections within 12 months, as they considered sanctions.

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS closed its borders with Mali after the coup, banning trade and financial flows as it demanded the release of Keita and other detained officials.

Keita, 75, was elected in 2013 as a unifying figure in a fractured country and was returned in 2018 for a second 5-year term.

But his popularity crashed as he failed to counter the raging jihadist insurgency and brake Mali’s downward economic spiral. –