Sunday, January 20, 2013

Mali's Struggles Linked to Failed Democracy

Mali is located in north-west Africa. Northern Mali has high uranium deposits, as does Niger. Algeria has high natural gas reserves. Coaltan and other minerals are prevalent in north-west Africa.
After French colonization from 1892 to 1960 and decades of dictatorships, in 1992 Mali held multi-party elections, in which Alpha Oumar Konaré became the Malian president. After two five year terms in power (the limit under Malian constitutional law), President Konaré stepped down. Mr. Touré who was involved in the 1991 Malian coup d'etat, won the 2002 Malian presidency. In 2012, President Touré was overthrown via coup d'etat and replaced by interim President Dioncounda Traoré, who ruled Mali as a dictator prior to the 1991 coup d'etat. Elections are scheduled for April of 2012, though they appear in jeopardy due to the ongoing south-north conflict directly involving the French military. 

Dr. Chérif Keïta, a professor of Francophone literature of Africa and a native of Mali, describes the Malian electoral system and democracy as a shell of democracy. The Malian Election Law (NO 06-044) supports this view. The election process is basic and with many loopholes. For example, there is no requirement for broad and balanced election coverage in the private media, and equal access for political candidates and parties to state media is vague (Election Law, NO 06-044, Article 70). There is no electoral finance transparency. In line with the French republic electoral system, commercial political advertisements are banned during the election period. Malian presidential candidates must be of "good character and known for integrity and honesty" (Election Law, NO 06-044, Article 82), which begs the question who determines this and on what grounds. The Malian electoral system ensures the secrecy of the vote, a reasonable counting process, and high fines (maximum six hundred thousand Francs) and prison times (up to 20 years in prison) for various actions which interfere/compromise the elections (Election Law, NO 06-044, Chapter XII Penalties). Malian adults who have been convicted for crime are disallowed from voting (Election Law, NO 06-044, Article 28). There is no electoral complaints process except with regard to the registration of voters and electoral lists (Election Law, NO 06-044,Chapter IV, Electors).

Malian Election Law (O6-044) (in French)

Mr. Stephen Garvey, Foundation for Democratic Advancement, Executive Director


Excerpt from Is Mali Just Another Failed African Democracy, Or Is There More At Play?
By Sarah Carlson (The International)
January 19, 2013

.... Mali is located in West Africa and is a former French colony, only gaining independence in 1960. After several decades of dictatorship, a military coup established a democratic government in 1991. President Alpha Oumar Konaré served as the first democratically elected President until 2001, whereupon President Amadou Toumani Touré succeeded him for two five year terms.

However, Malian citizens became increasingly dissatisfied with Touré’s handling of growing rebel forces in the North, and the he was overthrown in the spring of 2012. Within weeks of the coup, Touré fled to Senegal, stated his resignation, and was faced with the possibility of being charged for treason.

Although an interim government has since been established, the violent divide between north and south Mali makes reinstatement of democracy nearly impossible as interim President Dioncounda Traoré is not completely trusted by Malians, due to his alliance with ousted President Touré. The government’s projected
April elections may potentially exacerbate the already polarized nation, as free elections in the north may be all but impossible under rebel rule. Furthermore, the military continues to exercise considerable power behind the scenes.

Malian democracy: model African government, or convenient façade?

Although Mali’s democratic government has often been hailed as a model for other African nations, Dr. Chérif Keïta, a professor of Francophone literature of Africa and a native of Mali, adamantly describes Mali as an “empty shell democracy,” attributing this façade to Touré.

“This guy was not to be trusted by anyone, anywhere,” Keïta says, “Touré was very devious.”
Keïta explains that the rebellion conveniently aligned with the end of Touré’s term, allowing him to use the conflict as a reason to stay in power. Despite serving a two-term presidency, Touré was attempting to resist the democratic process in Mali, which would have required him to step down and have a new president elected into power.

Dr. Keïta claims that Touré had connections with certain members of the rebellion, including Iyad Ag Ghaly, the founder of the Malian Islamic group Ansar Dine, which has dominated the conflict in the North. Ag Ghaly established a working relationship with former President Amadou Toumani Touré as a Malian diplomat in Saudi Arabia from 2007-2010, but withdrew from his diplomatic position after Saudi Arabia accused him of having contact with terrorists.

.... France has expressed they will stay in Mali “as long as necessary” to eradicate terrorism and assist in the establishment of a revitalized Malian democracy. As Mali attempts to restore democracy, it is important to recognize the flaws of their late democratic system, in which citizens did not see leaders as accountable figures, and issues of regional divides were not properly addressed. In an effort to avoid future governmental problems, Dr. Keïta warns, that when discussions of rebuilding the government occur, the country will have “to rethink Malian democracy.”

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