Who is Mahmoud Dicko, the stern imam who makes the power shake?

Leading Malian protesters, who have demanded the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta since early June, are a man of growing influence: Mahmoud Dicko. Formerly an ally of IBK, this strict cetimam has been able to play a key role in the security crisis in Mali by succeeding as an intermediary with the jihadists.

Protests resumed in Mali demanding the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, nicknamed IBK. For the third time, there were several thousand protesters, on Friday 11 July, in Bamako, in response to the call from the “Movement of 5 June – Rally of the Patriotic Forces” (M5-RFP), named after the first date of mobilization.

At the head of the M5-RFP, a heterogeneous coalition that brings together politicians, anti-corruption activists, civil society figures and religious people, we find Mahmoud Dicko, a rigorous imam. This former IBK ally is now one of the president’s most narrow-minded critics, judged by the protesters to be responsible for the decline in economic growth and the persistence of insecurity, especially for attacks by jihadists.

“Everyone is against! Community problems, problems in the army, even between religious … (problems) between everyone … There is a malaise in the country, there is bad governance. There is open corruption. I say it and I say it again He diagnosed in an interview with RFI in June.

President of the Malian Islamic High Council

As a 66-year-old, Mahmoud Dicko, from a family of notables from Timbuktu, is a famous figure of Malian. From January 2008 to April 2019, he chaired the High Islamic Council (HCI). A 95% position of influence in a Muslim country. If the majority of the population is made up of Maliki Sunnis, Mahmoud Dicko embodies a rigorous stream, inspired by Saudi Wahhabism.

This father of a dozen children, born to his two wives, made himself known by opposing in 2009 the adoption of a new family code is particularly likely to modernize marriage, family and inheritance practices in Mali. He then forced the government to adopt a text that was much less ambitious than expected, especially on women’s rights. Recently he also had censorship a textbook for sex education who approached homosexuality.

Support for distrust of IBK

However, Mahmoud Dicko is not systematically in opposition. In 2013, he counted among supporters of IBK during the 2013 presidential election. He will even be on some presidential trips, especially to the Gulflands of which he is an expert, thanks to his education in Quranic schools in Saudi Arabia.

This teacher also imposes himself as a privileged intermediary with the jihadists, and his knowledge of Islam and his religious strictness gives him some credit with them, while enjoying relative trust with the Malian elites. In the Malian security crisis, he is the master of a dialogue with the rebels.

In April 2019, he was fired by Prime Minister Soumeylou Boubèye Maïga by organizing large demonstrations. This follower of a hard line and was considered responsible for the aggravation of the security crisis in central Mali.

A shift of the religious in the political

The Imam with the White Goat creates his movement, Coordination of Movements, Associations and Sympathizers (CMAS), in September 2019. Since then, Mahmoud Dicko has become a powerful critic of power as much as he has a broad popular base in Mali with the launch of CMAS,many have lent him political intentions, which he denies.

The charismatic preacher has united the protest against IBK by channeling the plight driven by months of deaths of thousands of people killed in recent years in jihadist attacks and violence between communities, the feeling of state powerlessness, economic downturn, the crisis in public services and schools and the notion of widespread corruption, but according to the Imam, the Cmas is not a party, but a movement that has religious visions as “ideals”, social and political.

“Many opponents who had no chance of coming to power have decided to rely on the imam and his thousands of followers and give him great political power,” analyzes researcher Aly Tounkara in Le Monde. .

But for sociologist Bréma Ely Dicko, who was interviewed by AFP in June, Imam Mahmoud Dicko’s ultimate intentions pose questions. The researcher points out that this religious leader is one of these personalities, today in the protest, which brought IBK to power in 2013. The Imam would consider himself poorly paid. He would have had a hard time digesting his role as a good office with the jihadists. His mentor, the sheriff of Nioro, another prominent religious, would also judge himself abusive. “The two were frustrated, and the regime they helped became the regime to fight,” analyzes Bréma Ely Dicko.