West Africa's regional body ECOWAS proposes a four-point plan to resolve Mali's political crisis that it says should be implemented within 10 days.

ECOWAS has drawn a red line on the demand for President Keita to resign (File).
ECOWAS has drawn a red line on the demand for President Keita to resign (File). (AFP)

West African leaders have called for the swift creation of a unity government in Mali and a fresh vote after disputed elections but warned of sanctions against those opposing efforts to end the country's political crisis.

In a statement issued after a video conference on Monday, heads of the 15-nation regional bloc ECOWAS stood by President Ibrahim Boubcar Keita but called for a unity government to be "established rapidly" and urged the opposition to join it.

Ministers in charge of defence, justice, foreign affairs, national security and finance would be nominated before the unity government is created, it said.

But – addressing demands by protesters that Keita quit –it also said the country's democratic constitution had to be respected and asked an ECOWAS commission "to consider sanctions against all those who act contrary to the normalisation process of the crisis."

President Keita has been locked in a standoff for weeks with the opposition June 5 Movement, and the conflict spiralled into violent clashes earlier this month, leaving nearly a dozen people dead.

READ MORE: Mali opposition halts protests with regional talks around the corner

Resignation of 31 lawmakers sought

Opposition figures have been tapping into a wellspring of anger over the president's perceived failures in tackling the dire economy, corruption and an eight-year conflict.

The summit called for the immediate resignation of the contested 31 MPs and the holding of by-elections in their constituencies.

In the meantime, parliament could continue to operate with the 116 other MPs. 

Supporters of Imam Mahmoud Dicko and other opposition political parties protest after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita rejected concessions, aimed at resolving a monthslong political stand-off, in Bamako, Mali on July 10, 2020.
Supporters of Imam Mahmoud Dicko and other opposition political parties protest after President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita rejected concessions, aimed at resolving a monthslong political stand-off, in Bamako, Mali on July 10, 2020. (Reuters)

Deepening crisis

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

The poor nation of some 20 million people has been struggling to contain an insurgency that first emerged in the north in 2012 before spreading to its centre, as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Thousands of soldiers and civilians have died in the conflict, and hundreds of thousands of people have been driven from their homes.

But much of the current tension was sparked in April, when the constitutional court tossed out 31 results from the parliamentary elections, benefiting Keita's party and sparking protests.

Tensions then snowballed into a crisis on July 10 when an anti-Keita rally organised by the June 5 Movement turned violent.

Protesters blocked bridges in Bamako, stormed the premises of the state broadcaster and attacked the parliament.

Three days of clashes between protesters and security forces followed, leaving 11 dead and 158 injured in the worst political unrest Mali has seen in years. 

READ MORE: Mali protests in second day despite president's call for talks

Source: TRTWorld and agencies