Mali Releases Arrested Leaders of Recent Protests

In an apparent move to calm tensions in the country, the Malian authorities have released leaders and organisers of three days of violent anti-government protests which began on June 10, 2020 paralysing the capital, Bamako and ending in fatalities.

The French magazine, Le Monde, quoted Prime Minister Boubou Cisse as confirming a toll of 11 dead and 158 injured in the three days of violent clashes.

With tensions still running high and sporadic clashes continuing between pockets of resisting youth and the security forces, the authorities heeded local and international calls and released the arrested protest leaders numbering about 20 on June 13, 2020.

“My three clients Choguel Maïga, Kaou Djim and the Imam (Oumarou) Diarra have just been released,” Alifa Habib Koné, lawyer of the three, told the Agence France Presse (AFP) after the releases.

Other opposition and civil society figures released from various detention facilities in the capital included Nouhoum Sarr, Adama Ben, Clément Dembele and a former minister Mountaga Tall. Imam Mahmoud Dicko, the powerful religious leader who reported himself to the police to be detained in solidarity with the arrested protest leaders, was also released.

The conciliatory gesture from the government is in line with calls by international actors  for restraint and political dialogue.

In a joint statement issued on June 12, the ECOWAS, African Union, EU and UN condemned the violence on both sides. They also urged President Keita to create the conditions for political dialogue by releasing the jailed leaders of the M5-RFP a coalition of religious, political and civil society leaders which organised the protests.

In addition to releasing the protest leaders, the President has dissolved the Constitutional Court which the protesters claim has lost credibility as a neutral body. In one of its recent partisan postures, the Constitutional Court on June 1, 2020, issued a statement describing calls for President Keita’s resignation as “insurrectional, subversive, seditious.” In response, the MFWA issued a statement condemning the Court’s action as “an attempt at dissuading and intimidating critics of the Executive.”

Following the liberation of its leading figures, the M5-RFP leadership has also called off protests earlier announced to take place on July 17. It will instead hold memorial services for the protesters killed during the last demonstrations.

Meanwhile, an ECOWAS delegation has arrived in Mali to mediate the impasse. Led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, the team has met President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and the powerful Imam Mahmoud Dicko who is the heartbeat of the campaign against the government. They will also meet separately with opposition leaders and civil society organisations to try to broker peace.

The MFWA welcomes the positive developments in Mali in the days immediately following the violent incidents, particularly, the release of the protesters leaders and the dissolution of the controversial Constitutional Court.

We urge the parties involved to continue the dialogue in good faith in order to restore peace. Above all, we reiterate our call on the authorities to investigate fully the violent incidents during the recent demonstration and ensure that those responsible for the excesses, particularly the killings and many press freedom violations, are punished.

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