By Vatican News
Religious leaders in Mali have appealed for calm and peaceful dialogue amid days of violent protests and unrest in Bamako, the nation’s capital.
According to several media reports, at least 11 people have been killed and more than 100 others injured in clashes between Malian security forces and protestors calling for the resignation of Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the West-African country’s president, and the creation of a transitional government. The protests started on Friday and lasted till Tuesday.
In the wake of these protests, the Archbishop of Bamako, Cardinal Jean Zerbo; the president of the Islamic High Council, Cherif Ousmane Madani Haidara; and the president of the Association of Evangelical Protestant Church Groups and Mission in Mali (AGEMPEM), Reverend Nouh Ag InfaYattara, appealed for peace via one of the national radio stations on Tuesday
The recent wave of protests was sparked by a contested parliamentary election in March, but other underlying causes include discontent over the president’s handling of the country’s multiple security and socio-economic problems.
The latest protests, led by the Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques (M5-RFP) – Mali’s opposition, made up of a coalition of political, religious and civil society representatives – saw demonstrators occupying state buildings and major streets in the capital. Some of its members were arrested during the protests.
Pressure from the demonstrations moved President Keïta to announce a reshuffle of the country’s Constitutional Court on Saturday in hopes of quelling the protests. However, the move was rejected by the opposition.
Appeals for peace and dialogue
In his appeal to the nation, Cardinal Zerbo deplored the deaths of the people killed during the protests. He said, “Mali does not deserve what is happening now,” and called on citizens to embrace peace and dialogue.
Islamic Council leader Cherif Ousmane Hadaira reiterated the calls for peaceful dialogue, saying that it is the only means of finding a solution. He pointed out that “the current situation will only aggravate the country’s difficulties,” and assured the citizens that the religious leaders are doing their best to help find solutions to the unrest.
At the same time, Cherif Ousmane Hadaira called on the President Keïta to release the members of the M5-RFP who were arrested after the demonstrations and asked him to dialogue with them.
“We have to talk to each other, we have to tell ourselves the truth,” said Hadaira, adding that “all that can bring the country out of the crisis is dialogue.”
For his part, Reverend InfaYattara called for prayers for the country, adding that “no son or daughter can be indifferent to the situation.” He also prayed for healing for the bereaved families who lost their loved ones during the protests, and for prompt recovery for the wounded.