Demonstrators vandalise building belonging to Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's Rally for Mali party, as the West African country sees worst civil unrest in years.

Protesters gesture on a barricade put up in front of the Salam mosque of Badalabougou after a prayer dedicated to the victims of latest uprising in Bamako, Mali on July 12, 2020.
Protesters gesture on a barricade put up in front of the Salam mosque of Badalabougou after a prayer dedicated to the victims of latest uprising in Bamako, Mali on July 12, 2020. (AFP)

Protesters have ransacked a building belonging to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's political party, underscoring the tensions that remain in Mali, even after the president met one of their top demands.

The latest unrest at a neighbourhood headquarters for Keita's Rally for Mali (or RPM) party came on Sunday as mourners returned from funerals to bury several of the victims who have died during political demonstrations in recent days, witnesses said.

Only hours earlier, the president had announced in a televised speech that he had dissolved the constitutional court as demanded by the opposition movement and was willing to consider re-doing contested legislative elections.

The movement's leaders are no longer calling for the resignation of Keita, who has three years left in his final term. But Sunday's unrest showed there are still elements deeply dissatisfied with his leadership.

Eleven people were killed in the violent demonstrations held on Friday and Saturday, officials said. 

The police crackdown now threatens to further escalate the crisis, with one political party already criticising the government for deploying anti-terrorism forces to the streets during the demonstrations.

Read more: Mali protests in second day despite president's call for talks

'Only consider Mali'

Dissolving Mali's constitutional court had been a top demand for the protesters because the body had released official results from legislative elections this spring that now are being disputed by several dozen candidates. 

Keita also told Malians he was willing to consider re-doing the legislative elections in those areas, saying such concessions are needed to save Mali from further violence.

“We must go beyond ourselves and only consider Mali,” the president said in his televised address late Saturday.

The president, who was elected in 2013 and won a second term five years later, had promised last week to dissolve the court. 

Demonstrators, though, have said they also want the National Assembly dissolved, a move Keita has yet to endorse.

Read more: Mali set for election runoff, despite virus and militant threats

High tension on streets

On Friday, thousands marched through the streets of the capital, even briefly occupying the state television offices. The unrest in the capital continued on Saturday when police fired tear gas on crowds that were smaller than the day before.

All scenarios are still possible in Mali, where the last democratically elected president was overthrown in a military coup in 2012, said Baba Dakono, a researcher and political analyst.

"It is difficult now to say whether President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita can still benefit from the support of the army," Dakono said.

Even if senior military officers are loyal to Keita's government, lower-ranking officers and army rank-and-file can be unpredictable, he said.

Presence of international forces

When Keita was elected in 2013, a French-led military operation had ousted militants from key towns in northern Mali just months earlier. 

In the seven years since, though, those militants have regrouped and continue to launch deadly attacks on Malian forces despite the presence of UN peacekeepers, French troops and regional forces.

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 Keita's government has handled the crisis. 

A similar wave of violence targeting Malian soldiers in the north, launched by separatist rebels, precipitated the 2012 coup that overthrew President Amadou Toumani Toure.

The coup's leader later handed over power to a transitional civilian government following international pressure, and democratic elections were then organised which Keita won.

Source: AP