Mali: Former Nigerian President Jonathan’s mediation flounders
So far, efforts made by ECOWAS mediator Goodluck Jonathan to bring together Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and leaders of the opposition movement for talks have failed.
After returning from Nioro, a town near Mali’s border with Mauritania, where Jonathan held talks with religious leader Bouyé Haïdara on 12 August, the former Nigeria president resumed his mediation efforts in Bamako, meeting with representatives of the presidential majority coalition as well as leaders of the 5 June Movement – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP), which continues to call for the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK).
Mali has been in the midst of a political crisis for months following the disputed April parliamentary elections. Protesters are railing against the corruption, weak economic growth and continued conflict under the Keïta administration.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is mediating the conflict, having proposed the formation of a government of national unity and other measures to de-escalate the conflict. Goodluck Jonathan, a former president of Nigeria, is leading the negotiations on behalf of the regional bloc – which is wielding the threat of sanctions to get the parties to talk.
According to our sources, the ECOWAS mediator proposed that opposition leaders meet with Mali’s head of state the following day, on 13 August. However, these same sources say that opposition figures were unwilling to agree to his request. While they were not against the idea of a parley, they had decided during an M5-RFP Strategic Committee meeting to set out several preconditions for such a gathering.
On the afternoon of 13 August, a delegation of two M5-RFP Strategic Committee members – Mountaga Tall and Souleymane Koné – proceeded to meet with Jonathan to present the group’s preconditions.
According to our sources, IBK’s opposition set out as a precondition to any meeting or discussion with the president that transparent investigations into the events which unfolded and left several people dead during the protests on 10, 11 and 12 July be conducted. Several young protesters were arrested in a manner M5-RFP found to be summary.
Declining the invitation
Discreet meetings have also taken place with a view to forming a government of national unity. Accordingly, Prime Minister Boubou Cissé met with Choguel Maïga (a leader of the coalition group Front de sauvegarde de la démocratie [FSD], which unites opposition political parties and civil society organisations) on 5 August to ask him and M5-RFP to take part in a dialogue to create a government of national unity.
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According to M5-RFP sources, Maïga has declined the invitation for now. Nevertheless, he has not severed ties with certain leaders of the presidential majority coalition, whom he has met with informally. In recent days, he hosted at his residence such visitors as Tiémoko Sangaré, president of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA), a political party allied with Keïta’s Rally for Mali (RPM).
In addition, opposition figure Imam Mahmoud Dicko arrived in Nioro on Thursday 13 August, the day after Jonathan’s visit. Dicko is also scheduled to discuss the current socio-political crisis with Bouyé Haïdara.