BAMAKO - Mali's junta has issued a decree halting political party activities, government spokesperson Abdoulaye Maiga announced in a statement read on state television on Wednesday evening.

The decree suspends until further notice all activities by political parties and "associations of a political nature" on the grounds of maintaining public order, the statement said.

Mali has been under military rule since August 2020, the first of eight coups in West and Central Africa over four years, including in its neighbours Burkina Faso and Niger.

Mali's current junta seized power in a second coup in 2021 and later promised to restore civilian rule by March 26, 2024 following elections in February of this year.

However, the junta said in September last year that it would indefinitely postpone February elections for technical reasons, sparking outrage among political groups.

Many reacted again after last month's transition deadline passed without a vote, with some of Mali's main political parties and civil society groups on March 31 calling for a time frame for elections.

"We will use all legal and legitimate avenues for the return of normal constitutional order in our country," they said in a joint statement that had over 20 signatories, including a major opposition coalition and the toppled ex-president's party.

Mali's military rulers already broke a first promise to hold elections in February 2022.

(Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Portia Crowe Editing by Marguerita Choy)