A Malian protest coalition that had campaigned against former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita said yesterday it was willing to work with the junta which ousted him in a process to restore civilian rule.
The new military rulers formally received the leaders of the June 5 Movement for the first time since seizing control of the crisis-hit country in a largely bloodless coup on August 18.
“We are willing to work with this process, we came here to exchange views and to reaffirm that we have the same positions” as the military, said Issa Kaou Djim, a leading figure in the protest movement.
“We have been reassured (by the fact) that these troops are soldiers, great intellectuals. Mali, across the entire spectrum, is in a drive to bring everyone together,” he said.
Keita, 75, was forced out by young army officers who led a mutiny at a military base at Kati, 15km from Bamako.
They headed into the capital where they detained the president, along with prime minister Boubou Cisse and other leaders.
The putsch – the second in eight years – has once more placed the spotlight on one of Africa’s most unstable countries, which is battling a militant revolt and economic slump.
The coup leaders were cheered by a large rally on Friday organised by the June 5 Movement, although they have been condemned by the country’s neighbours, the United States, African Union, the UN and European Union, with Brussels saying yesterday it was suspending its programme of army and police training in Mali.
Named after the day and month that it was launched, the June 5 Movement comprises a diverse association of grassroots groups, political parties and religious figures cemented by the demand for Keita’s resignation.
Following the roughly hour-long talks, the protest leaders were keen to present themselves as joint partners in forging a “new Mali”.
“We told the junta that it would be useful to have substantive discussions afterwards. They agree, and they said they will consult the people,” said Modibe Kone.
The next meeting is scheduled to take place on Saturday, attended by the junta’s leader, Colonel Assimi Goita, who did not take part yesterday, according to people at the talks.
Within hours of the coup, the junta, which calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, promised to enact a political transition and stage elections within a “reasonable time”.
A mediation mission by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) failed to reach a deal on the details of the transition, but said the junta had vowed to return the country to civilian rule within less than a year.
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