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Malian associations opposed to secularism in the Constitution

Could the military coup in Mali stumble on a religious question? While the junta fixed the referendum on its new Constitution for June 18 on Friday, around twenty Malian associations announced on Saturday that they would unite to obtain the withdrawal of the principle of secularism from the State in the project. These associations, religious, cultural, or political, have urged the head of the junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, to launch consultations with a view to such a withdrawal, failing which they will campaign for the no.

The commission responsible for finalizing the draft Constitution could have freed Mali “from the ideological yoke inherited from France”, but “lacked courage”, they say: “Secularism, despite these devastating consequences on our country since the independence up to the present day, has been maintained and defined as not opposing beliefs. A hyena remains a hyena whether (it) is in Paris or in Bamako”, they proclaim.

A predominantly Muslim country

The Constitution is a key element of the vast reform project invoked by the military to justify continuing to lead this country until 2024, faced with the spread of jihadism and a deep multifaceted crisis. Despite the pressure exerted by religious leaders, the text submitted to a referendum three months late affirms “the attachment to the republican form and the secularism of the State”. “Secularism is not opposed to religion and beliefs. Its objective is to promote and consolidate living together based on tolerance, dialogue and mutual understanding”, in a country with a predominantly Muslim population.

The signatory associations of Saturday’s declaration say they are united in a “Movement in support of Limama against secularism”. They affirm “the need to adapt our Constitution to our religious and societal values” and the conviction “that there can be no real refoundation possible in Mali, an old land of Islam, without reference to God”. The colonels who took power by force in 2020 have vowed to “refound” the Malian state. In the list of signatories is the Coordination of Movements, Associations and Sympathizers (CMAS) of the influential Imam Mahmoud Dicko, tutelary figure of the protest which preceded the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta by the military in 2020.

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