, BAMAKO, June 12- Malian lawmakers overwhelmingly voted to adopt new Prime Minister Modibo Keita’s government programme on Friday as the country looks to establish a lasting peace deal after years of unrest.
The west African nation remains divided among rival armed factions, plagued by drug trafficking and infiltrated by jihadist groups, but its main Tuareg led rebel faction is due to sign a peace deal next week.
Keita’s programme, which focuses on the safety of people and goods, improving living conditions and pushing for justice, was approved by 116 MPs, with 16 voting against.
Keita, who has been leading peace negotiations with rebel groups, took over as prime minister in January and presented his programme to Mali’s 146 member parliament on Monday.
Opposition leader Soumaila Cisse, however, said he was “sceptical” of Keita’s programme, charging that it contained “inaccuracies”.
Modibo Keita is the third premier appointed by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita (no relation), with his two predecessors both lasting less than a year.
Mali’s desert north has struggled to maintain stability since the west African nation gained independence in 1960.
The country descended into chaos in 2012 when an insurgency by Tuareg rebels led to a coup in the capital Bamako. Jihadists linked to Al Qaeda then overpowered the Tuareg to seize control of the north.
A French led military operation launched in January 2013 drove the extremists out of the region’s towns and cities.
But the country remains deeply divided, with the Tuareg and Arab populations of the north accusing sub Saharan ethnic groups in the more prosperous south of marginalising them.
Tuareg rebels and Islamist militants remain active throughout the north, a vast area the size of France, but attacks outside of the region are rare.
Hopes for peace were boosted last week when the main Tuareg led rebel movement announced it would sign an agreement to end the conflict in the west African nation on June 20.