- Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita says his hand is “always extended” and is prepared to meet the opposition coalition
- Keita is struggling to maintain support in the poor and volatile country
- Earlier this month, tens of thousands of people rallied in the capital Bamako demanding Keita’s departure
Mali’s beleaguered president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, made overtures on Sunday to the opposition coalition which is demanding his resignation, saying he is ready for talks.
“My door is open and my hand always extended,” Keita said on public television.
“I look forward to meeting soon with the actors of the opposition movement,” added the Malian leader, who has been in power since 2013.
Keita is struggling to maintain support in the poor and volatile country over a jihadist revolt and ethnic violence that have claimed thousands of lives, forced hundreds of thousands to flee their homes and devastated the economy
Earlier this month, tens of thousands of people rallied in Mali’s capital Bamako demanding Keita’s departure, in a show of force from his recently energised opponents.
That protest followed several demonstrations last month in the West African state over the outcome of recent parliamentary elections, which the president won, as well as over coronavirus restrictions.
The anti-Keita coalition, the Rally of the Patriotic Forces of Mali (RFP), organised the mass rally in Bamako.
Among its leaders are Cheick Oumar Sissoko, a former culture minister, and Mahmoud Dicko, a prominent imam and politician.
A religious hardliner, Dicko was considered an ally of President Keita before he entered politics several months ago.
Last week officials from the UN, West Africa and the African Union (AU) held talks with Keita and Dicko separately.
A source close to the opposition coalition said then that “the international community wanted to have information about our aims and then play the role of mediator, naturally”.
The UN MINUSMA peacekeeping mission has some 13 000 troops drawn from several nations deployed across the vast semi-arid country, to help it contain the Islamist insurgency.
But despite the presence of thousands of French troops, the conflict has engulfed the centre of the country and spread to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger to the west.
The UN said earlier Sunday that gunmen had killed two UN peacekeepers in a region of northwestern Mali.