Thousands of Malians rally against President Keita before election

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won a landslide victory over Cisse in a 2013 election, the first after a 2012 coup d’etat and a temporary takeover of northern Mali.

FILE: Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita arrives for a meeting on the second day of the fourth EU-Africa summit on 3 April 2014 at the EU Headquarters in Brussels. Picture: AFP.

BAMAKO - Thousands of Malians marched through the capital Bamako on Friday against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who will seek re-election next month.

A similar protest last Saturday was broken up by riot police firing teargas but this time the demonstrators, blowing horns and waving Malian flags, marched without incident from Place de la Liberté toward Place de l’Independence about 1.5 km away.

“The people have come out to say no to five years of incompetence, of bad management, of carelessness, five years of predation of resources,” said opposition leader Tiebile Drame, who is managing former finance minister Soumaila Cisse’s campaign. “The people want change.”

Keita won a landslide victory over Cisse in a 2013 election, the first after a 2012 coup d’etat and a temporary takeover of northern Mali by Tuareg militia and al Qaeda-linked militants.

Rising violence across Mali, including jihadist attacks and tit-for-tat ethnic killing in the north and centre, has raised doubts about the feasibility of holding the 29 July vote in some parts of the country.

Keita’s opponents fear the government will use security concerns as a pretext to close polling stations in opposition strongholds, something the government denies.

“It’s our right for all of us to ensure that the elections are transparent,” said Mohamed Bathily, one of more than two dozen presidential candidates in the race. “(Keita’s party) put into the (electoral) law the conditions for fraud.”

According to a UN report this week, armed groups carried out 44 attacks between 20 March and 30 May, killing dozens of civilians, Malian troops and UN peacekeepers.

The violence has spawned a humanitarian emergency with 4.3 million people expected to be food insecure between now and October and almost 1 million in need of emergency food assistance.