Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita
West Africa – Mali’s president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has suspended revision of his country’s constitution under opposition pressure
Mali’s president halted plans for a referendum on constitutional change occurred due to serious pressure from all size, including the opposition and the civil society groups.
The president move was cheered by the opposition Saturday after months of street protests against the reforms.
“In the higher interests of the nation and to preserve a peaceful social climate, I have taken the responsibility of deciding to suspend the holding of a referendum on revising the constitution,” President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita announced on television Friday evening.
The proposed reforms, the first constitutional revision in 25 years, sought to put in place some commitments made in a 2015 peace accord between the government and former rebel groups in the north of the country.
The proposed revision would have called for creating a Senate, with a third of the seats appointed by Keita himself — a plan that critics said aimed at consolidating his own power.
After the president’s announcement, the opposition and its supporters took to the streets of the capital Bamako on Saturday in outburst jubilation.
“We are here to celebrate a victory, the withdrawal of the referendum plan,” Amadou Thiam, deputy head of a campaign group called “Don’t Touch my Constitution,” said.
The Keita administration had initially planned to hold the referendum on July 9 2017. But on June 21, in the face of mounting criticisms, the government announced that the ballot would be postponed indefinitely.
On July 5, the opposition won a partial victory in the Constitutional Court, which agreed that the duration of the term of senators designated by the president had to be specified, but rejected the opposition’s request to abandon the referendum itself.
Mali is still at war. Government forces are still struggling in the north with remnants of the jihadist groups who in 2012 hijacked a rebellion led by Tuareg separatists to take over key cities.
The Jihadists were chased out from their strongholds by a French-led intervention in early 2013, but remain active in the area despite the peace deal.
Meanwhile, the ex-chief of Mali’s ‘Islamic police’ has been sentence to jail for 10 years.
A court in Mali on last Friday convicted the former head of the Islamic police brigade for offences including cutting off the hand of a suspected thief, sentencing him for 10 years.
The chief judge convicted Aliou Mahamar Toure, the feared former “Islamic police chief” of the city of Gao, on all the charges against him after the trial Friday in the capital Bamako.