At least 6000 people gathered in front of the Palais des Sports complex in the capital Bamako on Wednesday, June 28, in support of proposed amendments to the constitution. The amendments are expected to eventually be put to a referendum although the vote has been postponed indefinitely. According to the spokesperson of the “Yes on the Referendum” platform, the constitutional amendments are needed in order to enshrine elements of the 2015 Algiers peace agreement into the constitution. Further anti- and pro-constitutional reform protests are likely in the coming weeks.
On June 21, the Malian government postponed the constitutional referendum, initially scheduled for July 9, to a currently undetermined date. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and his cabinet made the decision in an effort to ease tensions, as the referendum faces heavy political opposition and has sparked numerous protests (e.g. in Bamako on June 8, 10, and 17).
If adopted, the amended constitution would provide for the creation of a number of new institutions including a Court of Accounts and a Senate. It would also give new powers to the president and the National Assembly, such as presidential immunity from prosecution and the ability of Parliament to carry out future constitutional amendments without a referendum. The opposition has criticized these proposals, particularly the increased concentration of power in the hands of the president. Additionally, opposition members content that the security situation in the central and northern regions makes it difficult to hold a free and fair vote.
Individuals in Mali are advised to avoid all protests and demonstrations due to the risk of violence and to anticipate an increased security presence in the event of further mobilizations.
On a separate note, due to the underlying terrorist and kidnapping threats prevalent in the country, all those present in Mali are advised to remain discreet regarding personal details, particularly information concerning nationality, employment, family, etc. Individuals are also advised to avoid public events and places frequented by Westerners, to remain vigilant at all times (especially in local markets, now used by terrorists as recruitment grounds), and to report any suspicious objects or behavior to the authorities. When going out, always carry a reliable means of communication and inform a trusted contact of where you are going and when you plan to return.