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Several hundred Malians gathered Friday in Bamako to support the junta, the army and the military cooperation with the Russians, denounced by the West.
The various organizations that had called to gather on the Independence Square also had in their sights, for some, the West African sanctions still in force against Mali and the presence on Malian territory of thousands of peacekeepers of the UN mission (Minusma) whose mandate is subject to renewal in June.
By mid-afternoon, the mobilization was a far cry from the mass demonstration organized on January 14 against the West African sanctions. The military-dominated authorities who took power in August 2020 readily cite the January demonstration as proof of their legitimacy.
The withdrawal of France, which has been militarily engaged in Mali since 2013, and a call for help from Russia were among the protesters’ main demands at the time.
France and its European allies have since announced their withdrawal after months of diplomatic deterioration. The Russians, mercenaries of the private company Wagner according to the West or instructors deployed under legitimate cooperation between states according to the Malian authorities, have instead made themselves more and more present.
Russian flags were waved on Friday by the demonstrators. Some unfurled a banner reading “Down with France, down with Minusma, down with ECOWAS,” the Economic Community of West African States, which is pressuring the colonels to return power to civilians faster than they intend.
The protesters rallied mostly around their army and against West African sanctions. “Because today, the army is our hope and our only hope,” said Bakary Diarra, 37 and a member of a youth organization.
“Yes, France has left. Now, what can Mali do, that’s what it’s all about,” said Awa Camara, of the League of Muslim Women.
“We hope that God will show the way of wisdom to the ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community so that Mali can get out of this situation,” said Gabriel Coulibaly, member of a Christian youth organization. In the meantime, “we are Malians, we support the army.
The military junta seized power in Burkina Faso in August 2020 following protests over the democratic government’s handling of the war against the jihadists.