President Muhammadu Buhari returned to Abuja on Thursday from his peace mission to Mali without a truce to the country’s political crisis.
The meeting with some African leaders ended in a stalemate in Bamako, the capital as protest mounted for the resignation of Ibrahim Keita of Mali amid festering jihadist insurgency that may plunge the country into crisis.
Buhari had on Thursday met with Nigeria’s former President Goodluck Jonathan, Presidents Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, Macky Sall of Senegal, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, and the host, Keita to find solution to the political crisis in the country.
Following the stalemate, Niger’s Issoufou upon deliberation with his counterparts, announced that the Economic Community of West African States would hold a summit on Monday, July 27 to broker a compromise between the warring factions.
One of the protest leaders, Imam Dicko, after holding talks with the presidents, said: “Nothing has moved for the movement.”
Report said a small group of demonstrators had on Thursday morning gathered outside the airport welcoming the African leaders.
“We are here to demand the Keita resignation and ensure our comrades who have been killed are not forgotten,” Yaya Sylla, a protester said.
The June 5 Movement, named after the date when the protests began, has tapped into deep anger over Keita’s perceived failure to tackle the dire economy, corruption and the eight-year jihadist revolt.
Malians are also incensed at the disputed outcome of long-delayed parliamentary elections in March and April that handed victory to Keita’s party.
The summit came on the heels of a five-day mediation mission from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States, which ended on Sunday without reconciling the two sides.
Keita, who came to power in 2013, has come under seriousnpressure to end Mali’s long-running jihadist conflict.
The poor nation of some 20 million people has been struggling to contain an insurgency that has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes since 2012, despite the presence of foreign troops.
In the latest violence, a French soldier was killed and two others were wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in northern Mali on Thursday, according to France’s presidency and the French army.
But much of the current tension was sparked in April, when the constitutional court tossed out 31 results from the parliamentary elections, benefiting Keita’s party and sparking protests.
Tensions then ratcheted up into a crisis on July 10 when an anti-Keita rally organised by the June 5 Movement turned violent.
Three days of clashes between protesters and security forces left 11 dead and 158 injured in the worst political unrest Mali had seen in years.
As a way out, ECOWAS mediators suggested forming a new unity government including opposition members and appointing new constitutional court judges who could potentially re-examine disputed election results.
But the June 5 Movement had already rejected any outcome that did not involve Keita’s departure.