Mali opposition opposes junta proposal on transition period

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People hold a banner showing Col. Assimi Goita, leader of the junta which is now running Mali and calls itself the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, as they demonstrate to show support for the junta in the capital Bamako, Mali, Tuesday, Sept. 8, 2020. Placard at left in French reads "An army-led transition". (AP Photo)

BAMAKO – Divisions deepened between Mali's military coup leaders and the country's political opposition movement on Sunday after the ruling junta announced a plan that would allow a military leader to oversee an 18-month transitional period.

While the two sides initially were united in wanting the departure of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, their paths have increasingly diverged since he was deposed in an Aug. 18 coup after months of street demonstrations by the opposition.

On Sunday, the opposition coalition known as M5-RFP publicly objected to the junta's plan, which was announced Saturday after three days of talks on Mali's political future.

“The final document read at the closing ceremony was not consistent with the deliberations of the various groups, including the majority choice of a transition led by a civilian," the M5-RFP statement said.

The junta proposed that the transition be led by either a military or civilian leader, which leaves open the possibility that the military officers who seized power could remain at the helm for another 18 months until elections are organized.

The 15-nation West African regional bloc known as ECOWAS has warned that by Tuesday the junta must designate a civilian leader to head a one-year transition period or else the country could face further sanctions. ECOWAS has already stopped financial transfers into the country and has closed its borders with Mali.

Junta leader Col. Assimi Goita said he hoped for the support of the international community after the military leaders agreed to reduce the transition period to 18 months after initially proposing three years.