The Star (Kenya)
Police, protesters clash as Mali starts transition talks
Police fired tear gas to disperse campaigners for civilian rule before substantive talks over Mali’s political future began on Thursday, a sign of a deepening rift over who should lead the postcoup transitional government.
About 100 supporters of the M5-RFP coalition, which led months of mass demonstrations against deposed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, clashed with police at the entrance to the conference centre, delaying the start of the talks.
The junta that toppled Keita on August 18 wants the transitional government to be led by the military, while the M5-RFP and regional leaders have called for a civilian to take the role.
“They are trying to confiscate our revolution from us, we were very clear from the start. We want a civilian as president of the transition, not a soldier,” said Bakary Keita, a senior member of M5-RFP.
International powers fear the political uncertainty in Bamako could undermine the fight across West Africa’s Sahel region against Islamist militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State, as a previous coup did in 2012.
The talks between the junta, political parties and civil society groups were called to resolve a number of issues including the length of the transition and the make-up of the governing bodies.
West African leaders have demanded the CNSP name a civilian interim president and prime minister by September 15 if they are to start easing sanctions imposed in the aftermath of the coup.