Thursday, July 23 will be etched as a milestone in the political history of Mali.
During the day while a French soldier under Operation Barkhane fell in the field battle, five West African presidents were given the difficult task of facilitating a compromise between Mali’s president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and protesters pushing for his immediate resignation.
These leaders are Presidents Macky Sall (Senegal), Alassane Ouattara (Cote d’Ivoire), Mahamadou Issoufou (Niger), Nana Akufo-Addo (Ghana) and Muhammadu Buhari (Nigeria).
Their arrival in Mali comes a few days after the failure of a mediating team sent by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
President IBK and his Prime Minister Boubou Cisse received the regional leaders at Modibo Keita Airport.
They immediately got immersed in marathon talks at the end of which an agreement to end the crisis was being eagerly awaited.
The five ECOWAS leader met with their Malian counterpart at the Koulouba Palace during a working lunch.
They have also met members of the ‘Mouvement du 5 Juin - Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques (M5-RFP) at a hotel in the capital Bamako.
The M5-RFP, a heterogeneous grouping has been staging huge protests in recent weeks to overthrow the IBK government.
As ECOWAS chair, Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger has declared that “the main enemy of Mali, and of the peoples of the Sahel in general, is poverty and terrorism.”
He therefore expressed hope that solutions would be found in order to “allow Mali to continue its fight for economic and social development.”
Senegalese leader Macky Sall, whose country also borders Mali, stressed the “necessity” for West African countries to stand by Mali, by facilitating talks between all parties involved in the political dispute with a view to reaching a peace outcome.
A communiqué is expected at the end of the talks which would be read out by President Issoufou.