ECOWAS leaders meet, to resolve Mali crisis

West African leaders gathered in Bamako on Thursday, July 23, 2020, in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali.

In an exceptional one-day summit, the presidents of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Niger have scheduled meetings with Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation.

The unrest deeply worries Mali's neighbours and allies, who fear a country bloodied by a jihadist insurgency could slide into chaos.

Presidents Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast and Macky Sall of Senegal were greeted at the airport by Keita, AFP journalists there saw. They were due to be followed by Nigeria's Muhammadu Buhari, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger and Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana.

A small group of demonstrators gathered outside the airport.

"We're here to demand IBK's resignation and ensure our comrades who have been killed are not forgotten," said Yaya Sylla, a young protester, using the acronym by which Mali's leader is known.

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 comes on the heels of a five-day mediation mission from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which ended on Sunday without reconciling the two sides.

"It is this Thursday that the last act is played, the curtain will fall," said a Malian opposition politician who declined to be named.

The West African leaders will weigh on proposed solutions that have been crafted in behind-the-scenes talks between the president and opposition this week.

- Deepening crisis -

Keita, who came to power in 2013, has come under increasing pressure to end Mali's long-running jihadist conflict.


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