A protest march called by Mali’s opposition just two months ahead of the country’s presidential election has turned violent with at least 16 people injured in clashes with police.
Witnesses at the scene of the rally in the capital Bamako said police used tear gas and batons to break up the protest by several hundred people outside the headquarters of the ruling party of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, Mali’s current president, who on May 28 announced his candidacy for a second term.
Former Finance and Economy Minister Mamadou Igor Diarra was among the injured, medics at a nearby hospital confirmed. Diarra tweeted that the rally he attended was meant to call for credible elections. “I was slightly injured when I took part in a march calling for credible elections.” Diarra is among some 15 candidates for the upcoming vote on July 29.
Authorities said the march, organized by the Coalition for Alternation and Change, was illegal under a state of emergency still in place. However, activists said they would continue the protests to stop what they called dictatorship in the West African country.
“You see, our march was peaceful. And it was an anti-democratic power that gassed us. The dictatorship will not pass,” said Ousmane Kone, an activist who took part in a similar rally in Bamako’s central neighborhoods. Reports said police dispersed the protesters at that site.
Oumar Sangare, head of an association which “supports change in Mali”, said the Saturday march was only meant to urge transparency and fairness in media campaign coverage.
“Why do you want us to keep quiet? We’re demonstrating to call for transparent elections and equal access” to the state broadcaster, said Sangare.