Ecowas demands release of Mali opposition leader

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West African presidents have demanded the release of one of Mali’s opposition leaders, Soumaila Cissé.

He was kidnapped by an unknown group just days before the now-disputed parliamentary elections on 25 March.

The demand was made as part of a plan by the West African regional bloc Ecowas to resolve Mali’s ongoing political crisis.

Tens of thousands of people have taken part in protests since June, with at least 11 protesters dying.

The protests started after the Constitutional Court threw out 31 results from parliamentary elections in April, benefiting President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s party.

On 5 June, thousands of people went out onto the streets in the first of a series of demonstrations. The protests turned deadly on the second weekend of July, when at least 11 people were killed.

On Monday, after meeting up by video conference, the West African heads of state made a series of recommendations, hoping to bring the unrest to a close.

They insisted that the Malian authorities “intensify efforts” for Mr Cissé’s release, while also asking for an inquiry into the protesters’ deaths on 10-12 July.

They further asked that 31 MPs whose results are contested should resign and allow for new elections, and recommended a unity government, which includes the opposition, be formed.

They said their plan should be implemented within 10 days and recommended sanctions against people who get in the way.

They did not, however, recommend the protestors’ main demand – that President Keïta resign.

The proposals are similar to previous plans, which the opposition coalition – a group called M5-RFP – has rejected.

The BBC’s Ishaq Khalid says it is not clear if they will reject these resolutions as well.

Mali’s neighbours are afraid that the crisis could slide into chaos as many are concerned that the situation could play into the hands of armed groups if not properly managed.

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