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Catholic Bishops in Mali Appeal for Dialogue amid Sanctions by Regional Economic Bloc

Members of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM). Credit: Vatican Media

Catholic Bishops in Mali have appealed for dialogue to find solutions acceptable to all citizens of the West African nation amid sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA).

On January 9, ECOWAS announced it would close borders with Mali and impose economic sanctions following the government’s attempt to extend the transition period by five years, despite a commitment to holding elections in February this year, BBC News reported.

Huge crowds gathered in Mali’s capital Bamako and other towns on January 14 to denounce sanctions imposed on the country by ECOWAS and UEMOA.

In a statement shared with ACI Africa Thursday, January 27, the members of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) express concern about the current crisis the West African nation is facing.

“Mali is living a critical moment of its existence, but with faith in God and trusting in the Malian men and women, as well as in the people and institutions that are helping us, we reaffirm our faith in the virtue of dialogue among brothers,” Catholic Bishops in Mali say in their message issued at the end of their Plenary Assembly in the Archdiocese of Bamako.

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They call on the country's authorities, ECOWAS, and other international bodies “to dialogue in order to find a solution acceptable to all for the good of our peaceful people.”

“We must put aside our egos and put the best interests of the people first,” Catholic Bishops in Mali say in their message signed by CEM President, Bishop Jonas Dembélé.

In a televised address, Mali's transitional president and junta leader, Colonel Assimi Goïta described the ECOWAS sanctions as “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane” and invited public mobilization to denounce them.

In the four-page document dated January 21, the Catholic Bishops urge Malians to live in “unity and to stand together in the face of the sanctions of ECOWAS.”

“We also call for solidarity, forgiveness and mutual support in the face of these sanctions and for a better way of living together in our country,” they add.

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The January 17-19 Plenary Assembly examined the life of CEM institutions: the Catholic University of West Africa in Bamako, the training center for future Priests, and the Minor Seminary that opened on 25 November 2021 in Fanterela, in the Diocese of Sikasso. 

The Catholic Bishops also examined the finances of CEM and evaluated the 50th national Marian pilgrimage. 

CEM members used the opportunity to present their condolences following the death of Mali’s former President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. 

“We offer our condolences to his friends and acquaintances as well as to all the Malian people,” the Catholic Bishops say, and implore, “May he rest in the peace of the Lord, as well as all the Presidents of Mali who have left us.”

They also congratulated the new Bishop of San, Mons. Hassa Florent Koné, on his appointment by Pope Francis on 7 October 2021, saying, “We wish him a good and fruitful ministry in the Church Family in San and in Mali.”

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CEM members expressed their appreciation to Fr. Frederic Koné, who led the Diocese of San as Administrator for two years. 

“Thank you to him for his service to the Diocese of San, to CEM and to the whole Church in Mali,” the Catholic Bishops say in their January 27 statement.

They implore, “May peace, security and a more fraternal living together be more prevalent in families, communities and in our country.”