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EU urges Mali ‘restraint’ after opposition protest crackdown

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Malian Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga (L) delivers a speech during the ceremony of Peacekeepers’ Day at the operating base of MINUSMA (The United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali) in Bamako on May 29, 2018. United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres arrived in Mali on May 28, 2018 to show support for UN peacekeepers facing an Islamist insurgency that has killed scores of their colleagues. / AFP PHOTO / MICHELE CATTANI

The European Union urged Mali’s government Monday to respect “freedom of expression” and “show restraint” after dozens of people were hurt in banned opposition protests two months ahead of presidential elections.

“The EU stresses the importance of the respect of fundamental freedoms, and in particular the freedom of expression, during election time,” the European Union said in a statement released late Monday.

“The protests need to happen in a peaceful manner and all actors, including law enforcement agents, are called upon to show restraint,” the statement read.

The EU said the presidential ballot scheduled for July 29 needed to “take place in peaceful, credible, transparent and inclusive conditions in order to reinforce Mali’s stability”.

Brussels vowed to stay “fully engaged” and deploy electoral observers to the West African country. Next month’s poll will see 73-year-old premier Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga face more than a dozen challengers.

Twenty-five people were wounded in clashes with security forces in the capital Bamako on Saturday, medical sources said.

The violence prompted a call for calm late Saturday from United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres who had visited the country just days earlier.

Mali’s government on Sunday condemned as “false and slanderous” claims by the opposition that live ammunition was used against the protesters.

Most protests are banned as the nation has lived under a near-constant state of emergency since an attack on a hotel in Bamako in November 2015 left 20 people dead.


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