Country delays constitutional referendum to cool tensions

Detractors of Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, pictured in July 2016, believe that the proposed and now postponed constitutional referendum would give Keita excessive power.

Mali on Wednesday delayed a constitutional referendum due to be held on July 9 in the face of heavy political opposition and street protests.

The vote was aimed at enshrining elements of a 2015 peace deal into the charter and establishing a senate in parliament, but came under intense scrutiny in recent weeks.

The cabinet “has decided to delay the referendum initially planned for July 9 to a future date,” a statement issued by the government said, without providing a reason or a new date for the vote.

The referendum faced opposition from those who say it gives President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita excessive powers.

Detractors also said such a vote could not be held safely in the troubled north, which remains wracked by insecurity, jihadist activity, and a near absence of the state.

Thousands protested against the referendum last weekend in Bamako and two parties serving in the governmental grouping in parliament on Tuesday called for it to be delayed to “cool down” rising tensions.

Beyond the senate, the referendum would enshrine in the constitution the establishment of five administrative regions in the north elected by popular vote.

Mali’s former rebel alliance on Tuesday rejected a national reconciliation charter unveiled on the second anniversary of their signing a peace deal with the government, further underscoring the country’s fraying peace process.

The deal signed in 2015 aimed at curbing separatist uprisings in Mali’s north after a 2012 rebellion was hijacked by jihadists, throwing the nation into chaos.

But Mali’s jihadists did not sign the peace deal and have continued to wreak havoc despite an ongoing French-led military intervention in 2013 to remove them.

In a sign of their growing confidence, an Al-Qaeda-linked jihadist alliance claimed responsibility Monday for a weekend attack on a tourist resort near Mali’s capital that left five people dead.



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