Mali Muslim leaders call for PM’s resignation at mass rally

In this file photo taken on May 2, 2015 Malian religious leader Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara (L) speaks to Mahmoud Dicko, the head of Mali's High Islamic Council (HCIM), during a peace gathering organised by non-governmental organisations in Bamako following deadly clashes between Tuareg rebel groups and Malian forces and pro-government militias in the north of the country. (AFP)
Updated 10 February 2019
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Mali Muslim leaders call for PM’s resignation at mass rally

BAMAKO: Mali’s chief Muslim leaders on Sunday called for the resignation of Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga at a mass rally, accusing his government of failing to halt militant attacks and allowing “moral depravity.”
Huge crowds packed out a 60,000-seat stadium in the capital Bamako, with many veiled women sitting in stands separated from the male attendees, according to an AFP reporter.
“Muslims can’t let things go to waste. From now on, they will be vigilant and mobilize for their country, their religion and their dignity,” influential imam Mahmoud Dicko, who presides over the Islamic High Council (IHC), told his supporters.
“Mali needs a complete overhaul,” said the ultraconservative leader who organized Sunday’s event with Bouye Haidara, another leading Muslim.
Over the past decade, Dicko has emerged as one of Mali’s most prominent public figures, playing a key role in negotiations between the government and Islamist extremists.
“We must fight corruption.... We must fight moral depravity. We are the guardians of morality,” added Issa Coulibaly, Dicko’s spokesman, speaking on the sidelines of the gathering.
In 2015, Dicko stirred controversy when he called jihadist attacks “divine punishment” for Mali adopting more liberal Western traditions.
“Our guide, our leader, is Mahmoud Dicko,” said minibus driver Moussa Dicko (no relation), adding that he had taken the day off to join the gathering at the stadium.
Last year, Prime Minister Maiga sparked outrage for supporting a plan to introduce sex education school books promoting a more tolerant view of homosexuality.
Homosexuality is not illegal but remains taboo in the Muslim-majority country. Members of the LGBT community often face discrimination and even physical punishment, according to civil society groups.
Dicko and his followers had slammed the Dutch-financed proposal for “wanting to teach homosexuality to school children.”
The government eventually bowed to the pressure and dropped the project in December.
“Our country is faced with a governance problem. This rally wants to draw attention to that. People need to talk to each other,” Dicko told AFP ahead of the event.
The imam’s political profile was boosted when he became a key mediator between the government and militants who took control of large swathes of the country’s north in 2012.
Despite French military intervention and a 2015 peace deal, jihadist attacks have continued and vast stretches of the landlocked Sahel nation remain out of state control, with violence also spilling into neighboring Burkina Faso and Nigeria.
Dicko, 64, has repeatedly pushed for dialogue to help solve the security crisis plaguing Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries.
In Sunday’s speech, he denounced the “terrorist attacks,” saying jihadism “has no place in Mali.”


India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

Indian National Congress party president Rahul Gandhi (C) gestures after laying a wreath to pay tribute on the 100th anniversary of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre at the Jallianwala Bagh martyrs memorial in Amritsar on April 13, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 14 min 2 sec ago
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India holds ‘Super Tuesday’ vote

  • Rahul Gandhi is standing in Wayanad in Kerala state, taking a risk as south India is considered a stronghold of regional parties
  • This election is seen as a referendum on his five-year rule — which has seen impressive economic growth but not the jobs that the BJP promised

AHMEDABAD, India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be among tens of millions of people to cast ballots as India holds a ‘Super Tuesday’ of voting in its marathon election.
The 117 seats to be decided will be the biggest number of any of the seven rounds of the election being held over six weeks.
Some 190 million voters in 15 states will be eligible to take part, and candidates on the ballot will include Modi’s arch-rival Rahul Gandhi, head of the opposition Congress party.
Modi, leader of the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, will vote in his home state of Gujarat. He ruled the western state for over a decade before leading the party to national power in a 2014 landslide.
This election is seen as a referendum on his five-year rule — which has seen impressive economic growth but not the jobs that the BJP promised.
Gujarat sends 26 lawmakers to the Indian parliament and the right-wing BJP won all of those seats in 2014.
Modi will vote in the constituency where his close associate Amit Shah, the BJP president and key powerbroker, is contesting his maiden election.
Gandhi is standing in Wayanad in Kerala state, taking a risk as south India is considered a stronghold of regional parties.
The opposition party leader says contesting Wayanad is a sign of his commitment to southern India. His opponents say it shows he fears defeat in his traditional seat in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.
Under Indian election law, candidates can contest two seats, though they can only keep one if they win both. Gandhi is also on the ballot for Amethi in Uttar Pradesh.

Turnout was robust in the first two rounds of voting, on April 11 and 18, with around 70 percent of eligible voters taking part.
Heavy security has been put in place for voting, though violence has still been reported, with Maoist rebels carrying out bomb and shooting attacks.
Authorities have also bolstered security in the restive Kashmir valley ahead of voting on Tuesday in the region considered a hotbed of anti-Indian sentiment.
Election results are to be released on May 23 and analysts say Modi is not expected to see a repeat of the BJP’s 2014 performance, when they won 282 seats.
Modi has capitalized on nationalist fervor that followed India’s air strikes on Pakistan in February in a dispute over Kashmir.
India accused its neighbor of harboring a militant group that claimed a deadly suicide bombing in Kashmir.
The fractured opposition, led by Congress, has sought to attack the government over employment, the economy and a debt crisis for Indian farmers.