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Several hundred Malians gathered in Bamako on Friday to support the junta, the army and military cooperation with the Russians, denounced by Westerners, AFP journalists noted.
“Yes to cooperation with Moscow, yes to the junta and the Malian army”: this is the message chanted by several hundred Malians brandishing placards, banners and Russian flags during a demonstration held on Friday May 13 in Bamako, according to AFP journalists present on the spot.
The various organizations which had called for a meeting in the Place de l’Indépendance also had their sights set, for some, on the West African sanctions still in force against Mali and the presence on Malian territory of thousands of peacekeepers from the UN mission (Minusma) whose mandate is up for renewal in June.
“Down with France, Minusma, and ECOWAS”
In the middle of the afternoon, the mobilization was very far from the mass demonstration organized on January 14 against the West African sanctions. The military-dominated authorities who took power in August 2020 readily invoke this protest as proof of their legitimacy.
The withdrawal of France, which has been militarily engaged in Mali since 2013, and the call for help from Russia were then among the main demands of the demonstrators.
France and its European allies have since announced their withdrawal after months of diplomatic downgrading. The Russians, mercenaries of the private company Wagner according to the West or instructors deployed by virtue of legitimate cooperation between States according to the Malian authorities, have on the contrary made themselves more and more present.
Among the Russian flags waved by the demonstrators was a banner “Down with France, down with Minusma, down with ECOWAS”, the Economic Community of West African States which is pressuring the colonels to ‘they’re giving power back to civilians faster than they want.
“France is gone”
The demonstrators mainly rallied around their army and against West African sanctions. “Because today the army is our hope, and (even) our only hope,” said Bakary Diarra, 37 and a member of a youth organization.
“Yes, France is gone. Now what can Mali do, that’s also what it’s all about,” said Awa Camara, of the League of Muslims. “We hope that God will show the path of wisdom to ECOWAS, the African Union and the international community so that Mali can emerge from this situation,” said Gabriel Coulibaly, a member of a Christian youth organization. In the meantime, “we are Malians, we support the army”.
The authorities claim a rise in power that is difficult to verify against the jihadists who have been raging in the country since 2013. The country is also plunged into a deep economic crisis whose embargo on commercial and financial transactions imposed by ECOWAS is worsening the fallout.