Salif Keita, one of Mali’s most beloved singer-songwriters, is entering politics as a member of the country’s transitional council, which is to push for legislative reforms after parliament was suspended during a coup.
“This is a decisive time for Mali,” Keita said by text message. “It’s very important that we correct the mistakes that have been made in the past.”
Keita, 71, is famous throughout Africa for mixing traditional Mandé music with jazz and other international music styles and was nominated several times for a Grammy Award. After announcing in 2018 he had retired from recording, he’s become an increasingly vocal critic of Mali’s efforts to end an Islamist insurgency and of France’s involvement in the conflict.
France has a large military presence in West Africa, with more than 5,000 troops carrying out counter-insurgency operations in Mali and the wider Sahel, a semi-arid zone on the southern fringe of the Sahara desert.
Keita will serve on the 121-member transitional council for 18 months, alongside members of the military junta, former militants and an influential religious leader. The Economic Community of West African States demands that elections be held in 2022 to name a new president and parliament.
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