Malian parties reject junta's suspension of political activities

  • World
  • Friday, 12 Apr 2024

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of Mali's M5-RFP opposition coalition, gather during a rally to mark a year since the start of protests marches that contributed to the ouster of former President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita at the Independence Square in Bamako, Mali June 4, 2021. REUTERS/Amadou Keita/File Photo

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Malian political parties and civil society groups jointly rejected on Thursday the ruling junta's order to suspend political activities and vowed to mount a legal challenge to what one opposition politician called the "dictatorial" move.

The West African country has been under military rule since a coup in 2020. Tensions have risen in recent weeks, leading major parties and other organisations jointly to call out the junta on March 31 for not scheduling elections within the promised time frame.

The authorities issued a decree on Wednesday suspending until further notice all activities by political parties and groups on the grounds of maintaining public order.

Joining forces again, the parties and civil society groups said they were astonished by the decision and called it a "serious violation ... of democratic freedoms."

The signatories to the declaration said they rejected the decree and would challenge it in court and refuse to participate in any government activity, including ongoing national talks.

They "will resist and will triumph," the declaration said.

Earlier on Thursday, the authorities doubled-down on the decree, ordering television, print and other media in Mali to stop broadcasting or publishing reports on the activities of political parties and groups.

"This decree has surprised and shocked all republicans," said Boubacar Toure, vice-president of the Rally for Mali (RPM) party of ousted president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Toure said he thought the Constitutional Court should rule on the issue, but others called for more direct action.

In an online post titled "DICTATORIAL DRIFT," senior opposition politician Housseini Guindo said it was time for "our people ... to resist this ignominy and initiate civil disobedience until the fall of the illegal and illegitimate regime."

Mali's current junta seized power in a second coup in 2021 and later promised to restore civilian rule by March 2024 following elections in February of this year.

However, the authorities said last September they would indefinitely postpone the February elections for technical reasons, deepening concerns about democratic backsliding in West and Central Africa, where there have been eight coups over the past four years.

"We call on Mali's transition government to honour its commitments to its citizens and hold free and fair elections," U.S. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said on Thursday, expressing deep concern about the suspension of political activities.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Additional reporting by Fadima Kontao, Alhousseini Alhadji, and Daphne Psaledakis; Writing by Alessandra Prentice; Editing by Stephen Coates)

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