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Rallies grip Bamako before Mali constitutional referendum

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Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of a new Malian constitution held separate rallies in the capital Bamako on Friday before this weekend’s referendum, AFP journalists reported.

Around 50,000 supporters of the “yes” campaign backed by the military government gathered in a stadium on Bamako’s outskirts, in a meeting attended by junta leader Assimi Goita..

Goita toured the stadium to greet the crowds but made no speech.

Opponents of the draft text filled the 3,000 seats at the Culture Palace in Bamako before a power cut forced them to join a crowd that had gathered outdoors.

“We’re here to say no to secularism,” imam Issa Djire told AFP, with his opinion reflecting those of influential religious organizations and figures who reject defining Muslim-majority Mali as a secular state.

Among the “no” supporters present was imam Mahmoud Dicko, a major figure of the protest movement that preceded the ousting of former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in a 2020 coup that brought Goita to power.

Mali’s constitutional referendum will be held on Sunday with the results expected in the following 72 hours.

The draft text is part of a series of reforms undertaken by the junta to justify delaying the transition to civilian rule until 2024.

The proposed constitution strengthens the powers of the president and offers an amnesty to leaders of coups that came before its promulgation, fueling speculation that Goita will run in future elections despite the military’s pledge to the contrary.

It also gives a prominent place to the armed forces, national sovereignty and the fight against corruption, while legitimizing traditional authorities and languages and creating a Senate.


©️ Agence France-Presse

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