Thousands march against referendum, extra powers for Mali president

BAMAKO, July 15 - Thousands of Malians took to the streets on Saturday to protest against a planned referendum on constitutional changes that would give extra powers to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, create new regions and recognize the Tuareg's ethnic homeland.
Mali's government has delayed the vote, which was originally planned for last week, but still plans to go ahead with it this year. Activists are unsettled by provisions that would enable the president to nominate a quarter of the Senate and remove the prime minister at will.
Malians have become increasingly disillusioned with Keita's government, as insecurity has worsened significantly over the past year and is spreading beyond the desert north to the south and center, including the capital Bamako.
"We don't need a revised constitution. We need the state to liberate the north and center of Mali and to take account of people's aspirations," protester and local councilor Sonore Sidibe said at the march, where protesters held up placards saying 'no' to the constitution, and some brandished red cards and called for the president to resign.
Presidential elections are scheduled for late 2018, although Keita has not said whether or not he will run.
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