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He also has been a strong advocate on health issues, including the prevention of HIV/AIDS, and is a proponent of road safety, encouraging the use of helmets by motorcyclists.

Imam Haidara said that “Malians needed to embrace Malians” and “need to preach peace and love, not bloodshed,” adding that the main issue in Mali stems from religious misunderstanding. He noted that some of the country’s mosques are in poor areas where people are easily lured into extremism.

The success of the upcoming commission will depend on representation by all the ethnic and religious groups, outreach to village leaders and griots, tolerant imams and other community leaders who can help unify the different factions. The July elections are an important step to achieve a government of national unity and return peace and stability to Mali.

• John Price is a former U.S. ambassador to Comoros, Mauritius and the Seychelles islands. He currently serves as a resident scholar at the University of Utah’s Hinckley Institute of Politics. He is the author of “When the White House Calls,” and regularly writes commentaries on Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.