Mali Shaken by New Rioting, Nationwide Strike
This West African capital city, where at least 150 people died over the weekend in bloody clashes between demonstrators and security forces, was shaken by new riots Monday night.
Bamako had been at a virtual standstill during the day as thousands of workers observed opposition calls for a nationwide strike aimed at bringing down President Moussa Traore’s single party government.
Around midnight, angry demonstrators built burning roadblocks and screamed slogans against the embattled president.
Armored cars took to the streets, tracer bullets streaked the sky and gunfire could be heard.
Troops had opened fire Sunday on anti-government demonstrators for the third consecutive day. Later, after Traore held talks with opposition leaders, the government lifted a two-day state of emergency, saying it would free hundreds of political prisoners and pull troops off the streets.
But the increasingly organized pro-democracy movement is pushing to topple Traore himself. “We wanted to talk, but they’ve killed too many people,” Balary Karambe, head of Mali’s only trade union, told a news conference. “Now we’re not talking any more.”
Karambe said protesters will march through Bamako every morning starting today until Traore steps down.
Traore has promised to consider multi-party reforms at a congress of his ruling Democratic Union of the Malian People, due to start Thursday, but he has flatly refused to resign before the end of his mandate in June.
Opposition leaders described the response to the strike as overwhelming and said that workers in towns outside the capital, including Timbuktu and Mopti, are taking part in the protest.