AFRICA/MALI - Prime Minister of the transition has been appointed; the Bishops meet in Bamako concerned about the Christians in the north

Bamako (Agenzia Fides) - An astrophysicist who has worked for Nasa, Cheick Modibo Diarra, is the Prime Minister of the transition of Mali. Diarra was appointed yesterday, April 17, by the ad interim President, Dioncounda Traore. "Diarra had founded his own party with the intention to participate in the presidential elections that should have been held at the end of April," explains to Fides Fr. Edmond Dembele, Secretary of the Episcopal Conference of Mali. "His appointment is a step forward in the process of transition to get Mali out of the crisis caused by the rebellion in the north and by the military coup on 22 March." At a political and military level, Fr. Dembele reports to Fides that "at present, there is a pause in the fighting in the north, while in Mauritania there are ongoing talks between representatives of Bamako and those of MNLA (National Liberation Movement of Azawad, which proclaimed "independence" from the North, ed.). Even the Islamist rebels have expressed a willingness to dialogue, but only with Muslim representatives." The Episcopal Conference of Mali met in Bamako to discuss the situation of the Country. "After the meeting, which was attended also by the Apostolic Nuncio, a message will be released in which the Bishops express their assessment on the latest events" said Fr. Dembele. "What I can say - he continued - is that the situation is of great concern to the Bishops, both for the humanitarian emergency and because Christians who live in the north were heavily affected by the violence, which resulted in the destruction of property of the Catholic community. The church of Gao was not completely destroyed but was severely ransacked. What is also reason of concern is the strengthening of the Islamists, with their attempts to impose the Sharia law throughout the Country. The Bishops, however, express appreciation for the initiation of the solution of the crisis, with the appointment of the ad Interim President and Prime Minister of the transition." As for the Swiss lay missionary kidnapped in Timboctou, Fr. Dembele states that the information he collected is not Catholic. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 18/4/2012)