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Malians participate in rallies ahead of Sunday's referendum

A man holds up a sign that reads "vote no in the referendum" during a march against the new constitution organised by the Association of Imams, in Bamako, on June 16, 2023   -  
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Tens of thousands of Malians participated on Friday in rallies in the capital, Bamako, ahead of Sunday's constitutional referendum.

The military government led by Assimi Goita supports a Yes vote on the new secular constitution. Opponents of the bill reject a secular state.

"Even those who call themselves traditional religions have rights in this country. All we asked for was to remove secularism from education so that everyone could learn their religion. But, unfortunately, even on this point, we were not heard. Limama has therefore issued a call to all Malians to vote "No" in the constitutional referendum on June 18, 202", said Cheick Salla Haïdara, spokesman of the Movement in support of Limama against secularism.

Female voter Djeneb Sidibé, a "No" supporter added: 

"If Mali becomes an Islamic country, it doesn't mean that Muslims will fight Christians or other practices. We've been living with Christians for a long time, and we even serve them food on festivals. If we're really against them, would we do that?", he said.

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

"What I liked most about this constitution is the article that clearly defines marriage as the union between a man and a woman. So a woman can't marry a woman, and a man can't marry a man", said Aïchata Maïga, a "Yes" supporter.

The new constitution strengthens the role of the president while giving a prominent place to the armed forces, national sovereignty and the fight against corruption. It also legitimises traditional authorities and languages and creates a Senate.

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