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Catholic Bishops in Mali Strongly Condemn “seizure of power,” Urge Constructive Dialogue

Bishop Jonas Dembélé reading the message of the members of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM)/ Credit: Courtesy Photo

Catholic Bishops in Mali have, in a collective statement, expressed their strong condemnation of what they call “seizure of power outside the legal process” in the West African nation and called for constructive dialogue.

In their collective statement circulated Thursday, May 27, the members of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) say they are following “with great concern and sadness the events that took place in the country following the establishment of a new government on 24 May 2021, after the resignation of the interim President and Prime Minister.”

“The Bishops in Mali, conscious of the need for a strong executive and a reconciled and reinforced army strongly condemn the seizure of power outside the legal process,” the Bishops say in their message shared with ACI Africa.

They add, “We firmly condemn the current crisis resulting from personal calculations far from the concerns of the people and the interests of Mali.”

Following a cabinet reshuffle in which two army officers lost their posts, Mali’s acting Vice President, Col. Assimi Goïta ousted interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane, BBC News reported about the Monday, May 24 ouster.

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Col. Goita said that President Ndaw and Prime Minister Ouane had “violated the transitional charter by failing to consult him about the new cabinet and promised that elections planned for next year at the end of the transitional period would go ahead.”

The ousted Malian leaders along with Defence Minister Souleymane Doucoure are reportedly being held at the military base at Kati, outside Mali’s capital city, Bamako. 

However, in a Thursday, May 27 news report, senior military and government officials in Mali have been quoted saying that President Ndaw and Prime Minister Ouane have been released.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, France 24 has quoted the officials as saying, “The interim president and prime minister were released overnight around 1.30am [local time]. We were true to our word.”

In their collective statement dated May 25, the members of CEM express “incomprehension and indignation at what is happening at the very moment.”

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According to the Bishops, the current turn of events comes at a time when “the population is facing with great difficulty different challenges, including security, health, and socio-economic.”

“Workers are demanding their rights through a large-scale strike; the country is experiencing a political transition that was negotiated with great difficulty and the international community as a whole is trying to put the country back on the road to democracy,” the Catholic Bishops say in their message signed by CEM President, Bishop Jonas Dembélé.

They welcome the efforts of members of the national and international mediators in tracing a new path for the West African nation.

As a way forward, the members of CEM say that they “recommend, despite the communiqué of the Vice-President of the Transition dated 25 May 2021, a constructive dialogue to put an end to the present crisis and suggest a social truce.”

The Bishops seek divine intervention in the political crisis “to help us build a Mali of peace and brotherhood.”

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May God, they implore, “Give our leaders and all citizens the necessary wisdom and conscience to seek above all the common good.”

“May the Lord, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Mali, grant our Nation to continue its march in truth, harmony, prosperity, justice and peace,” the members of CEM further implore in their May 25 collective statement shared with ACI Africa.

Mali, a country with a population of 19.66 million people has reportedly experienced a surge in violence involving both civilians and the military since 2016, with more than 4,000 deaths reported in 2019 alone as compared to some 770 three years earlier.

Last year, the military ousted former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a move that was widely condemned. A caretaker administration was put in place tasked with overseeing an 18-month transition back to civilian rule.

Catholic Bishops in Mali described the August 2020 military coup as “regrettable” and “a big failure for our democracy” and called for a change of mentality if the country has to put an end to coups.

In an interview with ACI Africa last August, Bishop Dembélé said that the challenges the country was facing can be managed through dialogue.

“The military coup that led to the ousting of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta is regrettable because we are in a state of law and democracy. This is the second time that Mali has had a military coup as a result of the way in which the country is governed. It is a big failure for our democracy even if there were reasons for it,” Bishop Dembélé told ACI Africa August 18.

The Malian Bishop urged the military officials “to ensure a return to democracy as promised but most especially ensuring the new leadership of the country put the people first and tackle the security challenges facing the nation.”

He further urged the people of God in Mali to “seek the path to conversion” and to accept dialogue in the spirit of truth and honesty noting, “This dialogue must take into consideration our traditional African values that encourage justice and reconciliation.”

“Malians are true and faithful believers, Muslims or Christians alike; we must not forget that prayer is an effective weapon for forgiveness and reconciliation,” the President of CEM told ACI Africa last August.