The coup in Mali follows months of protests against President Keïta. The movement was built by Imam Mahmoud Dicko.
Imam Mahmoud Dicko benefits from the coup in Mali against President Keïta Photo: Matthieu Rosier / reuters
COTONOU taz | Getting an appointment with Imam Mahmoud Dicko in Bamako is not always easy. Two years ago, after several inquiries, he canceled at short notice. It was shortly before the presidential election that there was another duel between incumbent Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé. His assistant announced that he did not want to speak publicly directly before the polls.
Five years earlier – after the Tuareg rebellion, coup d’état, occupation of the north by Islamist groups and military intervention by the French – it was completely different. Together with other religious opinion leaders, the now 66-year-old openly supported the election winner Keïta.
The former support has long since turned into the opposite. The protest movement M5-RFP (Movement of June 5th / Collection of Patriotic Forces), an association of civil society and parts of the political opposition, has put the government on the defensive with demonstrations in Bamako in recent weeks. Your leading figure: Imam Dicko.
Mali’s army has now granted its wish to get rid of President Keïta today rather than tomorrow and deposed the president. Now all eyes are on the protest movement and its imam.
50,000 protesters mobilized
The Imam comes from an influential Timbuktu family and studied in Saudi Arabia. He then went to Bamako, where in 2008 he became chairman of the religious authority “High Islamic Council of Mali” (HCIM) and thus one of the most influential religious opinion leaders. To this day he speaks out in public for a secular state. Nevertheless, there has been constant speculation about his proximity to Saudi Wahhabism.
How much influence he has – in Mali, almost 95 percent of the 19.5 million inhabitants * profess Islam – Imam Dicko demonstrated early on. In order to prevent an “un-Islamic” reform of the family law in 2009, he and other imams mobilized 50,000 demonstrators. To this day, when asked whether religious opinion leaders should speak out against the widespread female genital mutilation in Mali, he almost annoyed them. Time would fix that, he says.
Since last year Dicko has a new movement, the “Coordination Office for Movements, Associations and Sympathizers of Imam Dicko” (CMAS). In Bamako, small CMAS district offices are often noticed. At the headquarters in Magnambougou Faso Kanu, Dicko is also happy to welcome journalists. He is sitting on a light brown leather sofa and, unlike in public appearances, appears calm and often curt when asked. The CMAS is not a political party, but simply a movement, he says.
But its political impact is significant. In April 2019, he ran a campaign to force the resignation of Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga. Dicko also succeeded in mobilizing many thousands of people in the most recent demonstrations – in a country that has recently seen mainly disinterest, disappointment and a lack of trust in politics. This is exactly what the Imam benefits from today. Not politics but the religious are seen as those who can lead Mali out of the crisis.