Mali leader promises court changes in bid to quell protests

FILE - In this Sept. 25, 2019, file photo, Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita addresses the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly, at the United Nations headquarters. In a televised midnight speech, Keita promised early Thursday, July 9, 2020, to reform the country's constitutional court in a bid to quell another round of protests calling for his resignation. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) (Frank Franklin Ii, Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

BAMAKO – In a televised midnight speech, Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita promised early Thursday to reform the country's constitutional court in a bid to quell another round of protests calling for his resignation.

The change to the court's makeup is among the demands being sought by Keita's opponents, who already have taken to the streets twice in recent weeks in a show of his mounting unpopularity. Another demonstration was scheduled for Friday.

It was not immediately clear whether the 75-year-old president's overtures would satisfy opposition leaders who also have called for the National Assembly to be dissolved among other demands.

“In the hours and days to come, the constitutional court will be reconvened and put into operation as soon as possible,” Keita said in his address.

The court is at the heart of the growing political dispute because it declared official results after legislative elections were held in April. Several dozen candidates maintain the court's official results differed from polling station tallies.

A mission from the regional bloc known as ECOWAS already has suggested the government re-hold elections in the localities where results are contested.

The opposition also has been fueled by anger over the Malian government's inability to quell violence in the north more than seven years after a French-led military operation ousted Islamic extremists from power. The army has suffered a wave of deadly attacks over the past year on its outposts.

Keita, who is due to step down in 2023, became president the year after Mali’s president of a decade was overthrown in a coup. That crisis created a power vacuum that allowed the Islamic insurgency to take hold in Mali's north. The coup leader later handed over power to a civilian transitional government but only after international pressure to do so.