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Mali: ‘Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is still my brother’, says Mahmoud Dicko

By Aïssatou Diallo
Posted on Tuesday, 28 July 2020 17:02

FILE PHOTO: Mahmoud Dicko, head of Mali's High Islamic Council, prays during a rally at the March 26 stadium in Bamako, Mali
Mahmoud Dicko, then-head of Mali's High Islamic Council, prays during a rally at the March 26 stadium in Bamako, Mali, August 12, 2012. REUTERS/Adama Diarra

Malian imam Mahmoud Dicko, the leading figure of the disparate alliance calling for the resignation of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, spoke with The Africa Report / Jeune Afrique about the failure of ECOWAS’ mediation mission and Dicko’s relations with the Malian president.

Imam Mahmoud Dicko is at the centre of Mali’s political chessboard. The 5 June Movement – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP), a disparate alliance leading the protests against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, has made him its moral leader.

When the former head of the High Islamic Council, who is highly critical of the current government, goes out in public, the Koulouba Palace trembles.

READ MORE Mali: Imam Mahmoud Dicko and international community call for calm

After several mediation efforts – the most recent of which brought together Muhammadu Buhari, Mahamadou Issoufou, Alassane Ouattara, Nana Akufo-Addo and Macky Sall in Bamako on 23 July – the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met via videoconference on Monday for an extraordinary summit on the situation in Mali.

At the end of the summit, the heads of state reiterated a series of recommendations, including the “immediate resignation of the 31 MPs whose elections were contested, including the speaker of parliament”, a call for “the constitutional court to be rapidly overhauled” and the “swift creation of a government of national unity”.

Read on for our interview with imam Dicko, whose popularity has continued to rise in recent months, as all eyes turn towards him.

The Africa Report / Jeune Afrique: Why did you say after your meeting on 23 July with the heads of state of ECOWAS that “no progress had been made”?

Mahmoud Dicko: I said that no progress had been made because they didn’t propose anything. They merely repeated what had already been said. What was the point of five heads of state meeting to tell us the same thing the previous mission led by Goodluck Jonathan had concluded? It makes me wonder about the real purpose of the latest mission.

ECOWAS proposed overhauling the constitutional court, re-examining electoral disputes and forming a government of national unity. What do you think of these proposals?

I don’t have any issues with their proposals, but they are vague. During their mission, the five heads of state insisted on what they view as a red line: the president’s resignation. I agreed with their point of view and continue to hold this opinion.

What do you expect out of the extraordinary summit convened by ECOWAS leaders on Monday, 27 July?

These are responsible men who are concerned about the country. I hope they will adopt resolutions capable of resolving the crisis.

Some people are saying that a disagreement has arisen within the ranks of the M5-RFP between a faction that will be satisfied if Prime Minister Boubou Cissé resigns and another camp whose watchword is for the president to resign. Is this accurate?

The prime minister is appointed by the president, so it’s up to the latter to find a solution and assess whether or not he should part with this head of government. It’s up to him to decide if that’s the solution that will appease protesters. That said, how many different prime ministers has he had since he’s been in office? Quite a few. Why then is he so bent on keeping this one around now?

The M5-RFP is observing a truce until the Tabaski religious holiday, on 31 July. Where will the group go from there?

I don’t know. You’ll have to put that question to M5-RFP’s leaders.

How do you respond to those who criticise you for “Islamicising” the protest movement?

I’m a Muslim, like many other Malians. That can’t be denied.

READ MORE Mahmoud Dicko: “The dialogue with the jihadists must hold”

But it’s simplistic to say that, because I’m a Muslim, I’m Islamicising the protest movement. It’s an insult to the Malian people to think that I alone can Islamicise the country. We’re talking about a people who fought for democracy. Malians have lost their lives over that.

You have organised a funeral prayer service at your mosque in homage to those killed in the protests on 10 and 11 July and insisted on several occasions about the need to bring the circumstances of their deaths to light. Where are the investigations at?

It’s not normal for people taking to the streets to protest to be killed. I personally don’t have any knowledge of an investigation opened by the government. That actually is still one of the protesters’ demands. However, some NGOs, like Amnesty International, have taken up the issue and are carrying out investigations.

How are your relations with President Keïta currently?

He’s still my brother. Our differences of opinion don’t change the fact that he’s my brother.

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