Mali opposition suggests France interfering in political crisis

Malian opposition figurehead Mahmoud Dicko on Sunday suggested that France had moved behind the scenes to protect the premier of its former colony which has been mired for months in a political crisis.

“Why is France interfering in the choice of prime minister for Mali?” the influential Saudi-trained imam asked, speaking at a news conference in the capital Bamako.

He said Prime Minister Boubou Cisse — whom he asked to resign in a face-to-face confrontation late last month — had no legitimacy in Mali’s civil society.

Cisse has stayed on as the political impasse deepens, and Dicko charged Sunday: “It is France that is behind IBK in these decisions,” using the acronym by which Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is known. 

“I am not an enemy of France but France must respect us,” he added. 

Dicko, who is considered the figurehead of the opposition June 5 Movement, offered no proof for the accusation of interference. 

Keita is at loggerheads with an increasingly strident June 5 Movement which is intent on securing his resignation. 

The loose alliance of opposition and religious leaders has been chaneling deep anger over a dire economy, perceived government corruption, and an eight-year jihadist conflict.

Last month, 11 people died over three days of unrest following an anti-Keita protest in the worst political strife Mali has seen in years. 

The violence triggered Mali’s neighbours and allies to intervene, keen to avoid a descent into chaos for the Sahel nation. 

Heads of government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on July 27 urged the formation of a unity government, among other measures, to calm the crisis. The African leaders stuck by Keita, however. 

The June 5 Movement quickly rebuffed the proposals, insisting on Keita’s resignation. Dicko then added his call for Cisse to resign. 

On Sunday, Dicko said a “radical change of governance” is needed in Mali and that the opposition will not back down. 

He added that he hoped an anti-Keita rally scheduled for Tuesday will be “inscribed in history”.