Latest developments have marked a major escalation in the growing movement against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Anti-government protesters burn tires and barricade roads in the capital Bamako, Mali, July 10, 2020.
Anti-government protesters burn tires and barricade roads in the capital Bamako, Mali, July 10, 2020. (AP)

Police have fired tear gas in Mali’s capital as scattered groups came out for a second straight day of anti-government protests, defying the president's latest call for dialogue.

The turnout was far smaller than the thousands who surged through the streets on Friday, briefly occupying the state television station and setting fires.

At least one person was killed on Friday, said Djime Kante, spokesman for the Gabriel Toure hospital in Bamako.

Tear gas wafted into the hospital on Saturday, and the wounded continued to arrive. "At this moment there are more than 40,” Kante said.

Friday’s developments marked a major escalation in the growing movement against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who still has two years left in office in this West African country long destabilised by militants.

His overnight address to the nation took a conciliatory gesture days after he had tried to appease the protesters by promising to revamp the constitutional court whose legislative election results in April have been disputed by several dozen candidates.

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“I would like once again to reassure our people of my willingness to continue the dialogue and reiterate my readiness to take all measures in my power to calm the situation,” he said.

Mali opposition figures arrested

Mali's security forces arrested more opposition leaders on Saturday and Prime Minister Boubuou Cisse said four people had died in major unrest in the vulnerable Sahel nation.

An almost insurrectional atmosphere pervaded the capital Bamako as authorities cracked down on the opposition alliance known as the June 5 Movement, even as Cisse promised a government "open to facing the challenges of the day".

A total of six opposition figures have been detained in two days as the movement vowed to turn up the heat until embattled President Keita quits.

As Cisse visited a hospital in the capital he spoke of four dead and around 50 people injured in clashes with security forces on Friday, but doubts were raised over the death toll from some of the worst unrest in years.

Friday saw widespread protests against Keita, with thousands rallying in Bamako to demand his resignation over a long-running conflict, economic woes and perceived government corruption.

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June 5 Movement

The anti-government movement still wants the National Assembly dissolved. Its name, the June 5 Movement, or M5, reflects the day demonstrators first took to the streets en masse.

While the group has officially backed down from its calls that Keita leave office, some protesters still want him gone.

Keita came to power after a French-led military operation to oust militants from power in northern Mali’s towns in 2013, winning the first democratic elections organised after a military coup the year before.

Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers, and French and regional forces backing Malian troops, militants groups continue to mount attacks.

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Last year was particularly deadly as hundreds of soldiers were killed in the north, forcing the military at one point to close down some of its most remote and vulnerable outposts. It prompted criticism of how the government was handling the crisis.

The last democratically elected leader before Keita, President Amadou Toumani Toure, was overthrown in the 2012 coup after a decade in power.

The political chaos that ensued has been blamed for creating a power vacuum that allowed the insurgency to take hold in the north. Following international pressure, that coup leader later handed over power to a civilian transitional government that organised elections.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies