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Mali junta postpones transfer of powers meeting as cracks emerge

Protesters have accused military rulers of shutting out civilians from the transition

Colonel Ismail Wague from the Malian air force, and CNSP junta's spokesman speaks to the press following transitional talks on August 24, 2020 in Bamako, Mali Getty
Colonel Ismail Wague from the Malian air force, and CNSP junta's spokesman speaks to the press following transitional talks on August 24, 2020 in Bamako, Mali Getty

Mali's military junta on Saturday 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 organisations 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 "organisational 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 Mr 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.

President of the CNSP, the junta that ousted President Keita last week, surrounded by Malian special forces, arrives at the transitional talks with ECOWAS on August 24, 2020 in Bamako, Mali Getty
President of the CNSP, the junta that ousted President Keita last week, surrounded by Malian special forces, arrives at the transitional talks with ECOWAS on August 24, 2020 in Bamako, Mali Getty

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.

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

The coup shocked Mali's West African neighbours 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 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.

Mali's former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been released by the junta. Reuters
Mali's former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been released by the junta. Reuters

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

Mr 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 Mr Keita and other detained officials.

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

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

Updated: August 29, 2020 11:40 PM

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