Mali leader, Junta begins talks to civilian rule

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Mali’s military junta began talks on its promised transition to civilian rule on Saturday after mounting pressure from neighbours since it overthrew the nation’s leader in a coup.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was detained on August 18 after his seven-year rule. Opposition protests by the June 5 Movement urged he stepped down after endemic corruption and a simmering jihadist revolt.

The military junta pledged to step down after an undefined transition period, but the putsch has prompted Mali’s neighbours and former colonial ruler France to demand a swift transfer of power, with fears the crisis could spill over into the fragile Sahel.

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The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc has imposed sanctions and closed borders to Mali as part of efforts to press the junta into handing over power quickly.

Saturday’s summit was originally planned for last weekend but was called off at the last minute after a quarrel between the military and the June 5 Movement, which spearheaded the protests that led to the toppling of president Keita.

The opposition coalition of civil and religious leaders has demanded that the military rulers give it a role in the transition to civilian rule, but was not invited for transition talks last Saturday.

It has now been included in this weekend’s talks.

Former rebels and civil society were also invited to the discussions.

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The weekend talks, chaired by junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita, began on Saturday in the capital Bamako.

Parallel talks will take place in regional capitals, led by regional governors, according to the junta.

No date has yet been set for a power transition.

As for Keita, he left hospital on Thursday after suffering a mini-stroke following the coup, sources said.

The June 5 Movement led the protests against him for weeks before he was removed from power.


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