Mali appoints new constitutional court judges in bid to end crisis

AFP , Saturday 1 Aug 2020

Protesters demanding the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on July 10, 2020, in Bamako, Mali. © Matthiew Rosier, REUTERS

Mali's government said late on Friday that three new judges have been appointed to the Constitutional Court in the latest bid to resolve a weeks-long political crisis that has rocked the West African country.

Numerous attempts have been made to mediate the crisis, but an opposition alliance that has led mass protests has refused to budge on its main demand: the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

The current tension was sparked in April, when the Constitutional Court tossed out 30 results from a long-delayed parliamentary election -- a move that significantly benefited Keita's party.

The West African bloc ECOWAS last week announced a plan to end the crisis which, among other things, called for the "quick recomposition" of the Constitutional Court so that new judges could sort out the electoral dispute.

Keita then announced a "de facto dissolution" of the court.

During a meeting with the president on Thursday, members of the Superior Council of Magistrates "agreed on three names, which will therefore be appointed," Justice Minister Kassoum Tapo said in a video broadcast on Friday.

Under the constitution, the main governing body for magistrates appoints three judges to the court, while the president also appoints three, as does the national assembly.

But the Superior Council also proposed that the national assembly give up its right to pick three judges, and instead choose "from a list of six or seven people proposed by civil society" groups, the minister said.

Since the president had "agreed to give up his constitutional prerogative" to appoint three members, "there is no reason the same thing cannot be asked of the national assembly," Kassoum said, adding that it was a "very intelligent" solution.

Changing the Constitutional Court, which has the last word on electoral matters, is only one part of efforts to break the impasse.

The ECOWAS plan also calls for a new vote for the 30 disputed seats, but 29 of the 30 MPs whose election victories are in question have refused to step down.

West African leaders also suggested a new unity government be formed -- but all plans that do not involve Keita leaving have been spurned by Mali's opposition June 5 Movement.

The loose alliance of opposition groups and religious leaders has been channelling deep anger over a dire economy, perceived corruption and a brutal jihadist conflict.

Protests ratcheted up into a crisis on July 10 when an anti-Keita rally turned violent, with 11 people dying in clashes with security forces over several days, marking the bloodiest political unrest the former French colony has seen in years.

Short link: