A group of activists challenging Mali’s referendum on a draft constitution on Sunday asked the government to halt the entire process, and organize nationwide consultations first.
The group is also calling for what it terms as Total Liberation of the National Territory, in a country that is partly occupied by jihadists and former Tuareg rebels.
“The government has announced a postponement of the referendum, but for us, we are calling for its withdrawal and no referendum, without a full release of the territory,” said Sy Kadiatou Sow, president of the group called “Touche pas à ma constitution” (Do not touch my constitution).
Last week the Malian government officially postponed the controversial referendum which had originally been scheduled for 9 July.
The draft revision of the 1992 Constitution, the first in 25 years, aims in particular to “implement certain commitments of the Agreement for Peace and Reconciliation in Mali” signed in May / June 2015 between the government and members of a Tuareg-dominated rebellion in the north of the country.
The constitutional reform process in Mali is central to efforts to settle and prevent recurrent conflicts and to accommodate the ethnic diversity of the nation. While there seems to be political and popular support to the reform process, divisions on substantive issues that surfaced in previous failed reform attempts may undermine the process.
Several demonstrations have been organized against the referendum, and in a statement issued on Sunday to the AFP, the groups added that “in case the authorities do not withdraw the draft constitutional amendment and announce a new date for the referendum, synchronized protests will be organized in Bamako and beyond.”
“We will oppose this referendum by all legal means,” warned Mrs. Sy, former governor of Bamako and former minister.
Critics say the text in the draft copy gives too much power to the President of the Republic and they consider it impossible to organize the referendum in the north because of the prevailing insecurity linked to the jihadist attacks despite the presence of the army and international forces.
The anti-referendum group believes that a broad consultation of the “living forces of the nation” is necessary in order to arrive at a new consensual text, and that a national consultation would only be possible if the security conditions allow all the populations to participate.
The anti-referendum activists said they will hold a meeting on July 1 in Bamako, a day before a regional summit against armed Islamist groups in the Sahel, which French president Emmanuel Macron will be attending.
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