|President and First Lady of Mali with President Erdogan and Ermine|
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said that Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has pledged to take precautions in his country against the activities of the Gülen Movement. Erdoğan thanked Mali for contributing to the war against the movement for its alleged attempt to topple the government by exploiting power it had in key institutions that its members had secretly infiltrated in order to spy.
Speaking at a joint press conference with Keita in the capital Ankara, Erdoğan said that Mali is one of the countries where the Gülen Movement is widely active with schools and trade activities.
Erdoğan also said Turkey wanted to boost ties with Mali and all African countries through principles of "equal partnership" and "win-win," seeking to increase the trade volume between the two countries to $500 million by 2023.
Extending his appreciation to Keita, Erdoğan said Mali vowed not to give an opportunity to those who run counter to the Turkish government, alluding to Gülen schools operating in Mali.
"On both education and trade, we will carry on joint efforts on this issue," Erdoğan said, adding that the necessary steps will be taken to this end.
The irregularities and offenses that the movement is allegedly involved in have begun to unsettle countries around the world where there are dozens of schools owned by the movement. Members of the movement, who are currently accused of attempting to oust the government after orchestrating the Dec.17 and Dec. 25 operations by using their alleged power within the police and judiciary, have become a matter of unease among officials of countries that permit the operation of these schools in their countries. The group's alleged purpose of expanding their area of influence to serve their own benefit has gradually become public knowledge as a result of top Turkish officials' ongoing struggle with the "parallel structure," a term used for members of the Gülen Movement in key government institutions.
The Gülen Movement, led by Fethullah Gülen, has over 140 private schools and charity organizations around the world, including the U.S., Europe, Asia and Africa. Countries that have Gülen schools have begun to question their mission, deeming its shadowy structure problematic. Erdoğan has emphasized in no uncertain terms that schools affiliated with the movement should be shut down, citing their alleged illegal activities, and has vowed to replace them with new schools supported by the Turkish National Education Ministry.
During his visit to Africa in late January, Erdoğan called on African leaders to close down schools affiliated with the Gülen Movement. He pledged to open new schools to replace them, while speaking at a joint press conference with the prime minister of Ethiopia, Hailemariam Desalegn.
Earlier in the month, Tajikistan announced that it would not extend the agreement it had made with the Gülen Movement for permission to operate schools in the country, since they consider the mission of the schools belonging to the group "shadowy."
The issue has also led to a loss of trust in the schools both in Turkey and abroad. This year has seen a sharp drop in the number of students attending the schools in Turkey's 81 provinces, with many families transferring their children to other private or public schools.
Erdoğan, who was then prime minister, had called on families to stop enrolling their children in Gülen schools following a string of scandals involving the movement, which is accused of running a "parallel structure" via its members in the judiciary and law enforcement agencies.
Upon these developments, the government came up with a new solution to shut down schools operated by the movement abroad. Officials introduced a project whose preparations were kicked of last year, after the movement's alleged offenses became public and the decision to replace their schools with ones attached to a foundation was made.
Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç on Monday said that the government has agreed to transform Gülen schools abroad into civil foundations that operate on donations with partial financial support from the Turkish state.
"The system we will set up will definitely be a foundation and will operate on a volunteer basis," Arınç said at a press conference held after a Cabinet meeting in Ankara.