Advertisement

Catholic Priest among Five People Kidnapped in Mali’s Mopti Diocese

Map showing the various regions in Mali. Credit: Public Domain

A Catholic Priest serving in Mali’s Mopti Diocese is among five people who were reportedly abducted Monday, June 21 morning by gunmen, a Cleric in the West African nation has confirmed.

“The group disappeared on Monday while travelling from Ségué in the centre of the country, to the funeral of Fr. Oscar Thera in the town of San,” Fr. Alexis Dembélé has been quoted as saying Tuesday, June 22.

“We have confirmation that it was a kidnapping by armed men. It is a great concern for the Catholic community in Mali,” Fr. Dembélé has said, and explained, “The poor road network requires one to go up north and then back down to the south to the town of San.”

The group, including the Parish Priest of Ségué, was abducted about 30 kilometres North of Ségué in the vicinity of Ouo, the Catholic Cleric has further said, providing the identity of those kidnapped.

“The group was made up of Fr. Léon Douyon, the Parish Priest of Ségué, Thimothé Somboro, the village chief of Ségué, Pascal Somboro, deputy mayor, and two other members of the community, Emmanuel Somboro and Boutié Tolofoudié,” Fr. Dembélé has said.

Advertisement

The Governor of Central Mali’s Mopti region, Major Abass Dembélé, confirmed the abduction but did not offer further details.

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 2012. Since then, kidnappings have become frequent in the West African nation, with militants seeking either to get ransoms or to exert political pressure.

Independence and now jihadist insurgencies led by groups linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, as well as inter-communal violence, have left thousands dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. 

The violence has spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Sr. Gloria Cecilia Narvaez Argot, a member of the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of Mary Immaculate, kidnapped in the Catholic Diocese of Sikasso in Southern Mali in 2017 is believed to be in the hands of jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda.

More in Africa

The situation is further complicated by political instability in the West African nation.

Mali is currently under the leadership of Colonel Assimi Goita who led two coups in a span of nine months, first ousting the country’s elected President last August and, most recently, the interim leaders who were to head the country’s transitional government.

Following the May 24 coup, Mali’s constitutional court named Colonel Goita transitional President of Mali until the West African nation holds elections to replace the country’s elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita who was ousted in August last year.

The move has attracted criticism and condemnation, with the Catholic Church leaders in the country naming it “seizure of power outside the legal process.”

In their collective statement that was circulated May 27, the members of the Episcopal Conference of Mali (CEM) said they were following “with great concern and sadness” the events that took place in the country following the establishment of a new government on May 24.

Advertisement

This was the day that the country’s interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were arrested following a cabinet restructuring, a move Colonel Goita claimed had happened without his input, and stripped of their power while in detention.

In their May 27 message, CEM members said, “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.”

“We firmly condemn the current crisis resulting from personal calculations far from the concerns of the people and the interests of Mali,” the Catholic Bishops further said, recommending, as a way forward, “a constructive dialogue to put an end to the present crisis and suggest a social truce.”