Supporters of the Imam Mahmoud Dicko and other opposition political parties attend a mass protest demanding the resignation of Mali's President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at Independence Square in Bamako, Mali June 5, 2020. REUTERS/Matthieu Rosier

Thousands of Malians joined a protest rally in the capital Bamako on Friday to demand the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita over what they say is his mishandling of many crises plaguing the West African nation.

Keita, re-elected in 2018 for a second five-year term, is struggling with a years-long security crisis in northern Mali, an outbreak of the new corona-virus and political tensions arising from a disputed legislative election in March.

Various political groups and human rights activists helped organise Friday’s demonstration, which had the backing of influential Muslim cleric Mahmoud Dicko.

“I’m here today to tell President IBK (the widely used initials of Keita’s names) that he is incompetent and that he cannot govern this country. He should resign,” Moussa Traore, an unemployed man in his 30s, told Reuters.

Some protesters brandished placards that read “IBK must go” and “No to bad governance”.

Police declined to give an estimate of the number of protesters, but the U.S. Embassy in Mali said on its Twitter account that approximately 20,000 people had gathered at Bamako’s Independence Monument at the start of the rally.

“The crisis in the north has worsened and spread to the centre of the country. There is no security, no jobs,” said Ben Adama Diarra, 33, a spokesman for one of the rally organizers.

“Everyday we record deaths (from the violence and COVID-19). Mali is becoming a large cemetery,” he added.

The Sahel nation, which has a population of around 19 million, has so far reported 1,485 cases of COVID-19, the lung disease caused by the new corona-virus, and 87 deaths.

Mali, which produces gold and cotton, has struggled to find stability since 2012 when jihadist fighters hijacked an insurrection by Tuareg separatists, seizing the entire desert north of the country.

French troops helped to recapture the north but violence persists, despite the presence of thousands of United Nations troops, with groups linked to Al Qaeda and Islamic State stoking inter communal tensions. (CGTN AFRICA)