Mali PM promises to form an 'open' government amid mass protests

Violence broke out at demonstrations demanding President Keita resign over economic woes and alleged corruption.

    Malian Prime Minister Boubou Cisse promised to rapidly form a government "open to facing the challenges of the day", adding that the death toll from the country's worst civil unrest in years had risen to four.

    Violence broke out at mass protests in the capital Bamako on Friday demanding President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita resign over a long-running conflict, economic woes, and perceived government corruption.

    "The president and I remain open to dialogue. I will very quickly set up an executive with the intention of being open to facing the challenges of the day," Cisse said while visiting a hospital.

    Demonstrators attacked Parliament and ransacked the national television station.

    Initial reports said two were killed in the violence and dozens wounded, but on Saturday Cisse said four people had died.

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    Cisse has been prime minister since last year and Keita reappointed him on June 11 following parliamentary elections in March and April that sparked a movement calling for Keita to go.

    Months after the elections, the fragile West African country still has no government.

    Keita has increasingly tried to appease a newly formed opposition movement, opening the door to forming a national unity government.

    The opposition has rejected his attempts, insisting he step down.

    Opposition headquarters raided 

    Security forces on Saturday targeted the headquarters of CMAS, an opposition movement led by influential Muslim leader Imam Mahmoud Dicko that is part of the M5-RFP opposition coalition.

    "While our activists were in a meeting, they came and attacked and ransacked our headquarters," M5-RFP spokesman Nouhoum Togo said.

    One protest leader, Issa Kaou Djim, was arrested and remains in custody, Togo said.

    There was no immediate comment from police.

    Mali's neighbours and outside powers fear the impasse could further destabilise the country and jeopardise a joint military campaign against armed groups in the West African Sahel region.

    Mali protest
    The protest came after the coalition rejected concessions from Keita aimed at resolving a political stand-off [Reuters]

    The streets of Bamako appeared largely quiet following the protests. National television channel ORTM resumed broadcasting after going off air when its building was occupied.

    Social media platforms Twitter and Facebook were restricted on Friday, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said. Internet access remained patchy on Saturday.

    Keita issued a statement deploring the violence and said an investigation would be launched.

    "However, I would like to reassure our people once again of my desire to continue dialogue and reiterate my readiness to take all measures in my power with a view to calm the situation down," he said.

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    SOURCE: News agencies