Mali demonstrators call for clean elections

2018-06-08 19:29
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Thousands of people marched peacefully through Mali's capital on Friday to call for clean presidential elections next month, AFP journalists said, after recent violent protests.

The West African country's opposition, which organised the rally in the capital Bamako, said it had attracted up to 300 000 people, but local reports put the figure at 10 000 to 20 000, all of whom dispersed without incident afterwards.

Earlier this week the European Union urged the government to respect "freedom of expression" and "show restraint" after dozens of people were hurt in banned opposition protests.

The United Nations similarly called for calm.

"We turned up to call for transparent elections and equal access to state media, and also to denounce current government policy," opposition leader Soumaila Cisse told AFP.

Cisse, 68, who lost in 2013, is one of some 15 candidates running against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 73, who is seeking a second term in the July 29 election.

After the recent violence, the UN and the African Union brokered a deal with the government to allow Friday's march.

"No to fraud" and "Equal access to national radio and TV" read two banners at the rally.

"The mark is not only to demand clean elections and equal media access. It is also to denounce the regime, the cost of living and corruption," one demonstrator, Mahamane Toure, 51, said.

Mali has been badly hit by an Islamist insurgency in the north which has spread south and into neighbouring countries Burkina Faso and Niger despite peace efforts.

France, the former colonial overseer, intervened militarily in Mali in 2013 to help government forces combat al-Qaeda-linked jihadists.

The election campaign is due to begin July 7.

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