A number of political associations in Mali have joined forces to oppose the military government’s decision to hold a referendum on a new constitution on June 18.
The referendum, announced on Friday, is a milestone on the country’s path towards elections promised for February after a coup three years earlier. The referendum had been previously scheduled for March 19 but was postponed.
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The coalition is demanding the cancellation of the decree to convene the electoral bodies because it considers the ruling authorities illegitimate, Radio France Internationale (RFI) reported.
The group also points out that “more than two-thirds of the territory [is] being plunged into generalised insecurity”, according to RFI.
Mali is in the throes of an 11-year security crisis, triggered by a regional revolt in the north that developed into a full-blown rebellion. Frustration that French troops, who had been in the country since 2013, could not root out the rebels led to rising anti-French sentiment.
That and military rule in the country led to soured relations with France, the country’s traditional ally and former coloniser, and closer ties with Russia.
Constitutional change has long been debated in Mali. A referendum scheduled for 2017 did not take place.
In April 2021, the interim government set up by army colonels, announced that a referendum would be held that October.
Within weeks, that government was swept aside in a coup, and Colonel Assimi Goita was named the transitional president.
Analysts said there could be multiple challenges to holding the referendum, from attacks on voting stations to logistical issues like registration of voters.
There has also been opposition to the referendum from some Muslim religious figures, rebel groups in the north and a section of civil society, who do not support the mention of a secular state in the draft.
Goita has issued “very firm instructions” for the referendum to have all the necessary logistical, financial and security support, a government spokesperson said when the referendum was announced last week.
The referendum campaign will run from June 2-16. Voters will have to respond with a “yes” or a “no” to the question: Do you approve of the draft constitution?