For months, Mali has been mired in an escalating political crisis marked by large anti-government rallies and failed mediation attempts by regional leaders wary of further instability in the country.
Political tension has been simmering following the re-election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in 2018, in a poll that opposition parties said was marred by irregularities.
Friction rose earlier this year after a dispute over the results of a parliamentary election prompted tens of thousands to take to the streets to demand Keita’s resignation. The demonstrators accused Keita of failing to fix the country’s dire economic situation and contain a years-long armed campaign by various groups that has killed thousands and rendered vast swaths of Mali ungovernable.
The tension culminated on Tuesday when mutinying soldiers detained Keita, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and other top government officials, a dramatic escalation that was condemned by regional and international powers.
Here is a timeline of what has led to the latest unrest:
On March 26, veteran opposition leader Soumaila Cisse is abducted by unidentified gunmen along with six members of his team while campaigning in the conflict-hit centre of the country, just days before the long-delayed parliamentary election.
Just hours before polls open on March 29, the impoverished country of some 19 million people marks its first death due to the new coronavirus, raising concerns that it is particularly exposed to a COVID-19 outbreak.
The first round of parliamentary vote proceeds despite the threat of coronavirus threat and security fears about possible attacks by armed groups.
The second round, on April 19, is disrupted by incidents which prevent some voters from casting their ballots.
On April 30, Mali’s Constitutional Court overturned the results for 31 seats, handing Keita’s party 10 more parliamentary seats, making it the largest bloc. The court’s decision sparks protests in several cities.
Calls for president to resign
On May 30, the main opposition parties, as well as civil society groups, form a new opposition alliance, called “Movement of June 5 – Rally of Patriotic Forces”.
The alliance calls for a demonstration to demand Keita’s resignation.
Largely led by influential Muslim leader Mahmoud Dicko, thousands of people take to the streets of Mali’s capital, Bamako, on June 5, condemning what they say is the president’s mishandling of many crises plaguing the country.
On June 11, Keita reappoints Boubou Cisse as prime minister and tasks him with forming the new government.
But thousands of protesters gather to demonstrate again on June 19, under the umbrella of the June 5 Movement, reiterating their demands for Keita’s departure.
In early July, Keita floats political reforms in a bid to appease opponents, but they are all rejected. The protest movement’s leaders continue to call for parliament to be dissolved and urge for civil disobedience.
Worst political strife in years
On July 10, mass protests turn violent.
At least 14 people are killed in three days of clashes between security forces and protesters, in the worst political strife Mali has seen in years.
Alliance rejects plan by mediators
On July 18, the opposition alliance rejects a plan proposed by international mediators to defuse tensions.
After several meetings with a delegation from the 15-nation ECOWAS bloc, led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, the June 5 Movement says the president’s departure is a “red line” for the mediators.
On July 27, ECOWAS calls for the swift creation of a unity government in Mali, warning of sanctions against those standing in the way.
The opposition rejects the plan and insists the president stand down.
On August 10, Keita swore in nine new judges to the Constitutional Court, part of an ECOWAS suggestion for resolving the dispute.
Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, who has reported extensively on Mali, noted that the new judges had been nominated by a Keita ally.
The appointments, Haque said, added “fuel to the fire in this feeling amongst protesters that Keita is abusing power by bringing allies close to him”.
After a pause, anti-government protests resume on August 11, with demonstrators ignoring pleas from regional mediators to avoid taking to the streets.
The following day, on August 12, Malian security forces fire tear gas and use a water cannon to disperse hundreds of protesters who camped out at a square in the capital.
The opposition declares on August 17 that it will stage daily protests culminating in a mass rally in Bamako at the end of the week.
On August 18, Keita and Cisse are detained by soldiers who earlier in the day staged a mutiny at a key base in Kati, a garrison town just outside Bamako.
Opposition protesters gather at a square in Bamako in a show of support for the soldiers while regional and international powers urge the troops to return to the barracks and foreign embassies advise their citizens to stay indoors.