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.”


Greek authorities rescue 21 migrants adrift off usual route

Updated 6 min 19 sec ago
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Greek authorities rescue 21 migrants adrift off usual route

  • Most illegal migrants from Turkey to Greece take the eastern shorter route to Aegean Sea islands
  • Greek authorities also detained a Syrian national suspected of smuggling people

THESSALONIKI: Greek authorities say they have rescued 21 migrants found adrift in a small boat in a section of the northeastern Aegean Sea off the usual illegal immigration route.
The migrants were located Thursday between the island of Samothraki and the northeastern port of Alexandroupoli, after Greek authorities received an emergency call reporting their boat was in trouble.
Most migrants entering Greece illegally by sea from Turkey prefer the much shorter crossing to the eastern Aegean Sea islands, and the longer, northern route is rarely used.
Also Thursday, police in the northeastern region of Thrace said they detained nine Syrian and Afghan migrants found squashed into a car that was being driven west after crossing the land border from Turkey.
The driver, a 20-year-old Syrian, was arrested on suspicion of people-smuggling.