Hundreds of supporters of Mali’s M5 opposition movement have gathered in the capital Bamako to show support to the military days after Mali underwent a second coup.
The rally on Friday was held in Independence Square in Bamako to commemorate the founding of the movement, which powered mass protests last year.
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But it also came after Colonel Assimi Goita deposed the civilian transitional president and prime minister on May 24.
“In a way, this [rally] is a show of support for the [M5] movement, but also of the military junta,” said Al Jazeera’s Nicholas Haque, reporting from Bamako.
Malian soldiers on May 25 detained interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and stripped them of their powers, plunging the country into further uncertainty after a military coup in August last year.
Goita may name a leading M5 figure as his new prime minister – a move that some argue could soften international criticism of the second coup.
The military latest seizure of power has sparked diplomatic uproar, prompting the African Union and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to suspend Mali.
Offering a firm rebuke on Thursday, France also said it would suspend joint military operations with Malian forces and would stop advising the Malian military.
Mali’s former colonial ruler has thousands of troops stationed in the Sahel to help fight armed groups after violence erupted in Mali in 2012 and now threatens the region.
France’s defence ministry said the suspension was a “conservative and temporary measure” pending “guarantees” that Mali’s ruling military will stage elections in February 2022.
The ministry added that French troops will continue to operate in Mali, but on their own.
Goita is expected to be appointed as Mali’s transitional president in a ceremony on Monday, which would pave the way towards naming a civilian prime minister – a key international demand.
On August 18 last year, Goita led army officers in overthrowing elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, following mass protests over perceived corruption and armed fighting.
M5 had spearheaded the protests against Keita in 2020 but was subsequently sidelined in the army-dominated post-coup administration.
This transitional government pledged to reform the constitution by October and stage elections in February next year.
But the M5 became a vocal critic, calling the transitional government a “disguised military regime”.
However, there has been a rapprochement between the group and the army since the May 24 coup.
Goita has said he would prefer to name an M5 figure as his prime minister and the group put forward one of its cadres, Choguel Maiga, as a candidate.
But that choice has in turn raised questions about Mali’s future, in particular concerning the potential role of religious leader Mahmoud Dicko, who is close to Maiga.
The influential imam was viewed as the figurehead of the M5 during the anti-Keita protests but later distanced himself from the movement.
Maiga is also a vocal critic of the 2015 Algiers peace accord, a shaky agreement between the central government and several armed groups.