Mahmoud Diko: Mali Imam challenges President Keita

Considering any concerns about coronaviruses, a large number of people are organizing large-scale protests across Mali, demanding the resignation of the West African state's fast-growing president, Ibrahim Babkar Keita.    Corruption and conservatism, weak public services and national leadership, abuse of elections, and the government's inability to end inter-religious and jihadi violence have provoked public frustration.


Considering any concerns about coronaviruses, a large number of people are organizing large-scale protests across Mali, demanding the resignation of the West African state's fast-growing president, Ibrahim Babkar Keita.


Corruption and conservatism, weak public services and national leadership, abuse of elections, and the government's inability to end inter-religious and jihadi violence have provoked public frustration.

Opposition political parties have come together to hold demonstrations, but their throats are not decisive, and have taken to the streets to display public anger ten thousand times over the decades - and now Mr. Keita and his ministers are forcibly speaking.

The true mobilizer - the one who draws considerable audience power - is the imam, Mahmud Diko.

He was a major player in this challenge, despite 15,000 international troops and often injecting external aid, giving Mali the power to think and deal with many problems.

Imam Diko is not a novice who has emerged from the prudent life of spiritual leadership in a predominantly Muslim country.

Electricity extends to Timbuktu

He has been a major player in public life for at least a decade, but today he is demonstrating his superiority over the past. In April 2019, the then Prime Minister Soumilou protested the removal of Babe Maga.

This year's massive protest, during Friday prayers on June 5, was restricted to the city of Bamako and Chicago in the south.

But two weeks later, people gathered in the south-central Segou and the ancient desert city of Timbuktu, on the west bank of the Sahara on the Case. And the movement is more spread out.

The mobilizing power of Imam Diko gave his traditional political allies the muscle of negotiation.

On Tuesday, leaders of Mr. Keita's ruling camp sat down for talks with the opposition alliance M5.

Two days before he met the Imam for the first time, he knew he was popular, which was decisive.

'Respect for Spirituality'
International mediators - from the UN Peacekeeping Mission to the Economic Community of Mali, the European Union (EU), and the West African States (ECOWAS) - have also observed the voice of Imam Diko.

He rose to prominence in 2009 as head of the High Islamic Council, which led a large-scale protest to the then-President of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure, to improve women's rights.

This confirmed his role as a prominent religious conservative.

Born in the mid-1950s in Timbuktu, Imam Diko was originally an Arabic teacher who studied in Saudi Arabia and became a religious leader for the mosque at Bamco's suburban river Badalbagou.

He was also secretary of the major state religious organization until the end of the unilateral rule and the establishment of democracy nearly three decades ago.

Despite his Saudi education, Imam Diko never condemned the radicalism and radical Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

He is in fact a supporter of conservative West African Islam, a conservative in his views on family issues, but a strong defender of Mali's pre-Muslim origins and respect for pluralistic religious culture and spirituality. For example, Timbuktu is called the "City of 333 Saints."

Imam Diko has always opposed both the ideology of harsh corporal punishment and violent jihad in the name of Islam.

When Islamic militants seized the north of Mali in 2012, it tried to reach a settlement through negotiations, even meeting jihadi commander Iyad Ng Ghali.

When terrorists abandoned negotiations and launched a new offensive campaign, Imam Dicko welcomed France's military intervention in January 2013, threatening to break from the south and head towards Bamako. Malis, who survived despite being "in distress," was rescued by his soldiers. By fellow Muslim countries.

Formed its own Islamist movement
Yet for Imam Dicko, welcoming the French intervention that saved Bamako from the jihadis means not buying into the agenda of some widespread liberal modernism.

He has always defended social conservatism, sometimes in graphic language.

Yet he always sticks to his conservatism. He said God sent the terrorists responsible for the 2015 attack on the Radisson Blu Hotel in Bamako to punish Malice for homosexuality imported from the West.

His sense of nationalism shows up when France accuses him of re-colonizing his country. In this, she is like many Indigenous people - happy to be redeemed in 2013, but now tired of French military action and unable to shut down jihadist armed groups.

The popular appeal is to make him an effective player in the current political crisis.

Back in the 2013 election, he supported Mr. Keita, who is running for president, with the slogan of restoring national pride after two years of crisis.

In both that contest and the next, in 2018, Mr. Keita saw his technical democratic challenge, Soumya Sisse.

After being kidnapped on a rural campaign trail for parliamentary elections this March, the president is in political circles today, and Mr. Sis is held hostage by jihadi terrorists.


As Imam Dico, he left President Keita in 2017 and formed his own Islamist political movement, Coordination des Movements, Association at Sympathicants (CMAS), from the High Islamic Council last year.

He said AG Air and others were involved in efforts to develop a new dialogue with jihadi leaders who were still trying to maintain an armed conflict, an avenue that Keita also follows.

'The Standard Bearer of Nationalism'

But Imam Diko's political differences with the president are deep.

His opposition allies are secularists and the current protests are filled with anger over the widespread public appetite for turning Mali into an Islamic republic.

Along with the relentless security crisis throughout the North, corruption scandals have become a link, and a teachers' strike shut down many schools long before the virus went out.

Mr. Keita, who was re-elected with a concrete mandate in 2018, has little chance of getting ready to step down.

But he may agree to back down to a more nominal role, while the opposition will join a united government that leaves true power in its hands.

However, conditions limit the president's re-election in 2023.

Can the Imams leave the field open for DiCao, who can grow up to be the standard-bearer of the nationalist tradition with the compromises of the traditional political class?

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