Mali's President Keïta dissolves constitutional court amid unrest

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Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar KeitaImage source, Reuters
Image caption,
There are growing calls for President Keïta to resign

Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta has announced the dissolution of the constitutional court in an attempt to calm unrest that saw four people killed in street protests on Friday.

The president said he would not tolerate such violence.

The court has been at the centre of controversy after it overturned provisional results for parliamentary elections in March.

There are growing calls for President Keïta to resign.

Opponents are unhappy with his handling of Mali's long-running jihadist conflict, an economic crisis and the disputed elections.

A new opposition coalition led by the conservative Imam, Mahmoud Dicko, has been insisting on further reforms after rejecting earlier concessions from the Malian president, including the formation of a unity government.

What did the president say?

"I have decided to repeal the licences of the remaining members of the constitutional court," the president said in a Saturday evening television address.

"This de facto dissolution of the court will enable us, from next week, to ask relevant authorities to nominate new members so that the reformed court can quickly help us find solutions to the disputes arising from the legislative elections," he added.

Image source, AFP
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Protests continued in the capital on Saturday

President Keïta also suggested that he could agree to re-run some of the disputed parliamentary elections, which is one of the protesters' demands. This was recommended last month by the West African regional bloc, Ecowas.

Speaking earlier on Saturday, Prime Minister Boubou Cissé said he and the president were open to talks and promised to form an inclusive government "very quickly".

"I will put in place a government with the aim of being open to address the challenges of the moment," he told Radio France International.

But this came as the opposition coalition said security forces detained two of the protest leaders, Choguel Kokala Maïga and Mountaga Tall. Another protest leader, Issa Kaou Djim, was arrested on Friday.

In addition, security forces "came and attacked and ransacked our headquarters", opposition coalition spokesman Nouhoum Togo said.

On Saturday evening, correspondents described the capital as tense with protesters blocking several roads with barricades. However, numbers were down on Friday's protests, which forced the state broadcaster off the air.

What has the response been?

Mr Dicko on Sunday urged Malians to stay calm.

"Do not set fire to petrol stations or this district. Calm down, please! Calm down," the AFP news agency reports him as saying in a video message on social media ahead of a funeral for one of those killed in the protests.

Four people died in Friday's demonstration in the capital Bamako, authorities say. AFP reports that there were another four deaths on Saturday.

The leader of one of the parties in the opposition coalition, Yeah Samaké, told the BBC that he rejected President Keïta's offer of concessions and still wanted him to leave power.

"We are demanding the president to step down because he has failed the people of Mali," he told the Newshour programme.

"He has not kept his promises of securing the people of Mali, of fighting corruption, of providing jobs for the youth and these are the demands today of the people of Mali."

Earlier in the week, some opposition leaders had said they were no longer insisting on the president's resignation.

Why are people protesting?

These demonstrations are the third since June.

Image source, Reuters
Image caption,
Many thousands of people have taken part in the protests

Protests started after the opposition coalition rejected previous concessions from President Keïta designed to end a political stand-off over a disputed legislative election in March.

President Keïta secured a second five-year term in 2018, but has faced increased opposition over a rise in jihadist violence and an economic crisis.

Malians will hope this instability does not play into the hands of the jihadists who are behind the escalating violence in the north and centre of the country.

In a sign of the insecurity, one of Mali's opposition leaders, Soumaila Cissé, was kidnapped by an unknown group just days before the parliamentary elections. He was still elected to the National Assembly.