By Abdur Rahman Alfa Shaban with agencies /Africa News/ – Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari announced his first trip in months as the presidency confirmed he was joining four other presidents to salvage peace talks in Mali.
Regional mediators are stepping up efforts today in the West African country where the political opposition has renewed its call for protests so that President Ibrahim Boubcar Keita leaves office three years before his final term ends.
Opposition leaders had rejected an earlier solution proposed by mediators from the 15-nation West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS.
I would like once again to reassure our people of my willingness to continue the dialogue and reiterate my readiness to take all measures in my power to calm the situation.
The visiting leaders aside Buhari include:
- Senegal’s Macky Sall
- Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara
- Niger’s Mahamadou Issoufou – who is also president of the regional bloc ECOWAS
- Ghana’s Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo.
An earlier ECOWAS mediation led by former Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan called for Keita to form a unity government and share power, but opposition leaders said the deal fell short because the president would get to remain in office.
ECOWAS said Keita’s departure is not something it can endorse. The president was democratically elected in 2013 and re-elected five years later.
His popularity has plummeted amid allegations of corruption and a relentless Islamic insurgency that began the year before he took office and has worsened under his watch. In June, demonstrators began taking to the streets by the thousands calling for his ouster, naming themselves the June 5 Movement.
Nearly two weeks ago, things took a dramatic turn for the worse when security forces attempted to put down the protests over several days. At least a dozen people were killed, and grief deepened the resolve of Keita’s opponents to seek his removal.
West Africa’s shuttle diplomacy has included several regional political heavyweights who helped intervene in 2012 when a military coup gave way to a jihadist takeover across Mali’s north. ECOWAS pressured the coup leader to hand over power to a transitional civilian government.
The year after the coup, Keita won the first elections organized after the country’s return to democracy.