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Mali has been gripped for months by a political crisis that has sparked the country’s worst unrest in years, as a protest movement galvanised by a disputed election pushed for President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita to resign.

Keita said Wednesday he had stepped down to avoid “bloodshed” after he was detained in a military coup, whose leaders pledged new elections.

Here is a timeline of the crisis.

 Disputed elections 

On March 26, opposition leader Soumaila Cisse is kidnapped as he campaigns three days before a parliamentary election, in an unprecedented abduction of such a senior politician.

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Despite the coronavirus pandemic which a day earlier had claimed Mali’s first life, the first round of the parliamentary election goes ahead on March 29. It is tainted by abductions of election officials, the ransacking of polling stations and a deadly mine explosion.

The second round on April 19 is disrupted by incidents in the centre and the north of the country which prevent voters from casting their ballots.

On April 30, Mali’s constitutional court overturns the results for some 30 seats, 10 of which benefited candidates from the president’s party, triggering protests in several cities.

Alliance against president 

On May 30 influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, opposition parties and civil society figures form a broad-based opposition alliance which calls for a demonstration to demand Keita’s resignation.

 

Armed members of the FAMA (Malian Armed Forces) are celebrated by the population as they parade at Independence Square in Bamako on August 18, 2020.  STRINGER / AFP

 

It goes on to adopt the name, “Movement of June 5 — Rally of Patriotic Forces”.

The movement is critical of continued failures to stem the country’s jihadist insurgency, inter-community bloodshed as well as the government’s record on the economy and fighting corruption, along with the organisation of the legislative election.

 Demonstrations 

On June 5, tens of thousands of people hit the streets in the capital Bamako.

Keita reappoints Prime Minister Boubou Cisse on June 12 and tasks him with forming the new government resulting from the elections.

On June 19 tens of thousands rally again, calling for Keita to resign.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) calls for the creation of a “consensus government of national unity”.

In early July Keita makes various attempts to appease the opposition, but all are rejected and the movement’s leaders call for parliament to be dissolved and urge civil disobedience.

 Worst unrest in years 

Violence breaks out at a mass demonstration in Bamako on July 10. Protesters attack parliament and storm the premises of a state broadcaster.

Clashes between protesters and security forces last three days and are the worst political unrest Mali has seen since 2012.

Eleven people died in the violence, according to an official tally, while the opposition says 23 lives were lost and the United Nations puts the number of fatalities at 14.

No compromise 

On July 18 the opposition rejects a compromise proposed by an international mediation team led by former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.

Days later the opposition says it will halt protests in a “truce” ahead of the Eid festival.

In a summit on the crisis at the end of July, leaders of the ECOWAS bloc stand by Keita but call for the swift formation of a unity government.

The opposition rejects the plan and insists the president stand down.

 Renewed protests  

On August 11 thousands of protesters return to the streets.

The next day security forces in the capital fire tear gas to clear hundreds of demonstrators from a central square where they had camped overnight.

The opposition declares on August 17 that it will stage daily protests culminating in a mass rally in Bamako at the end of the week.

 Military coup 

On August 18, rebel soldiers seize a military base outside Bamako. They take Keita and Prime Minister Cisse into custody and drive them to the base, cheered on by crowds gathered in the capital.

ECOWAS condemns the coup and pledges a range of retaliatory actions, including financial sanctions.

Keita appears in a state television broadcast soon after midnight to declare the dissolution of the government and national assembly, and announces that he has resigned to avoid “bloodshed.”

The coup leaders appear on television hours later to pledge a political transition and new elections within a “reasonable time”.

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