Mali Cleric Urges Junta to Prepare Rapid Return to Democracy

One of Mali’s most prominent Muslim preachers, Mahmoud Dicko, called for a rapid return to civilian rule, adding to pressure on the junta to hand over power following a coup last month.

Dicko, who before the coup backed mass protests demanding the government step down, urged the junta to respect a Sept. 15 deadline from the Economic Community of West African States to name a civilian as president to avoid further sanctions.

Mali Cleric Urges Junta to Prepare Rapid Return to Democracy

“If the international community, including Ecowas, thinks that a civilian president should lead the transition, then let’s find that person,” Dicko told state broadcaster ORTM on Thursday. Mali shouldn’t risk further repercussions by “turning its back on the international community,” he said.

Ecowas has blocked borders and halted regional trade with Mali, and the U.S ambassador to the United Nations, Kelly Craft, said last month the U.S. will consider sanctions if the junta blocks the reinstatement of a constitutional government.

The junta has proposed elections in 2023, saying it needs three years to organize constitutional and electoral reforms. The outgoing chairman of Ecowas, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, wants the transition to take no more than one year. Negotiations between the junta and political and civil-society leaders are due to resume Thursday in order to firm up a roadmap for a transitional government.

The 66-year-old religious leader, whose rallies and prayer sessions can draw thousands of people, also said he isn’t interested in public office.

“It’s not my calling to lead a country -- my calling is to lead prayer,” Dicko said.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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