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Supporters of the Imam Mahmoud Dicko attend a mass protest demanding the resignation of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at Independence Square in Bamako, Mali. PHOTO/COURTESY

UN calls for calm, dialogue amid huge Mali protests

The United Nations’ Secretary General has called for calm and dialogue in Mali after tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in the capital Bamako on Friday demanding President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita step down.

Keita was re-elected in 2018 for a second five-year term, but has struggled with a years-long security crisis, an outbreak of the new coronavirus, a strike by teachers and political tensions arising from disputed local elections in March.

Friday’s angry protests were the second this month, and opposition leaders called for civil disobedience if certain demands were not met.

“The Secretary-General calls on all political leaders to send clear messages to their supporters to exercise utmost restraint and to refrain from any action likely to fuel tensions,” said Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for Secretary-General António Guterres.

Mali, which produces gold and cotton, has struggled to find stability since 2012 when jihadist fighters hijacked an insurrection by Tuareg separatists, seizing the entire desert north of the country.

French troops helped to recapture the north but violence persists, despite the presence of thousands of United Nations troops, with groups linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State stoking intercommunal tensions.

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