Mali’s military junta on Thursday, launched a three-day “national consultation” with political parties, unions and NGOs, facing questions at home and pressure from abroad over its plans for returning the country to civilian rule.
Around 500 people are attending the forum, unfolding at a conference centre in Bamako, the capital.
The talks mark the second round of discussions between the young officers who overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18 and civilian representatives, many of whom had campaigned fiercely for him to resign.
Early jubilation among many Malians over Keita’s exit has been superseded by questions and also divisions over the speed of the handover and the military’s role in the transition period.
The coup, Mali’s fourth since gaining independence from France in 1960 – came after months of protests, stoked by Keita’s failure to roll back a bloody jihadist insurgency and fix the country’s many economic woes.
Mali’s neighbours have watched with concern, fearing the country could spiral back into chaos, a scenario that eight years ago helped fuel the jihadist revolt which now rattles Niger and Burkina Faso.
The junta initially talked of a three-year transition, corresponding to the time left in Keita’s second five-year mandate, that would be overseen by a soldier.