| Democratic Process
This section has been updated
by Mr Boubacar Issa Abdourhamane,
a doctorate student at the CEAN, IEP Montesquieu University of Bordeaux
Mali is an example of a
transition that succeeded in breaking away from the former regime, in this case General
Moussa Traoré who had been in power from 1968 to 1991. He had based his regime on the
army and on a one-party system built around the Democratic Union of the Malian People (Union
Démocratique du Peuple Malien UDPM). By 1990, however, voices were being
raised to call for the opening up of the regime. President Traoré announced that he was
against a multi-party system and the party postponed discussion of the question to the
following year. The response was that the countrys single union organisation
the National Union of the Workers of Mali (Union Nationale des Travailleurs du Mali
UNTM) and a group of 175 personalities demanded that other political parties
be authorised in August of that year.
These demands were soon joined, in July 1990, by bloody clashes between the army and Tuareg rebels in the north of the country. In December, demonstrations and strikes developed in Bamako to demand democratisation and an improvement in living conditions. From January 1991, the situation had been transformed into one of civil disobedience. The UNTM decreed an unlimited general strike and the opposition joined together in the Coordination of Democratic Associations (Coordination des Associations Démocratiques CAD). Violent demonstrations followed by riots occurred daily in Bamako. The authorities refused to make any concessions and ordered the army to fire at the crowds. Within a few days, more than one hundred deaths had been recorded.
On 26 March, the regime of General Moussa Traoré was overthrown in a coup détat. Lieutenant-Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré became the head of the National Council of Reconciliation (Conseil National de la Réconciliation CNR) which suspended all the institutions and announced its intention of achieving rapid transition to a democratic regime. With the cooperation of civil society, the CNR was replaced by a Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People (Comité Transitoire pour le Salut du Peuple CTSP) composed of civilians and members of the armed forces. In April 1991, a transition government was appointed and political parties were authorised.
Despite an attempted coup détat on 15 July 1991, the National Conference that had been planned took place from 29 July to 12 August 1991. It brought together 36 parties and 1,070 associations, and adopted, among other things, a draft Constitution, a charter for political parties and an electoral code. The Constitution of the 3rd Republic was adopted by referendum on 12 January 1992 with 98.35% of the vote.
On 23 February and 9 March 1992 were held the general elections (first-past-the-post system with two rounds) that saw the victory of the ADEMA (Alliance for Democracy in Mali Alliance pour la Démocratie au Mali) with 76 seats out of 116. No other party managed to secure 10 seats. It was therefore no surprise when Alpha Oumar Konaré, the candidate of this party, won the second round of the presidential elections on 16 April 1992 with 69.03% of the votes, ahead of Tiéoulé Mamadou Konaté, the candidate of the Sudanese Union (Union Soudanaise - US-RDA). As he had promised, Amadou Toumani Touré did not stand for election.
The daily running of the State was faced with many challenges over the first few years. On top of the handling of the Tuareg rebellion, complicated by the creation of a powerful Songhaï self-defence militia in the north, the Ganda Koy Patriotic Movement (MPGK), the State also had to face social disturbances involving students and workers unions. The first of these questions was finally settled with the signature, in Algiers on 11 April 1992, of the National Pact between the government, the various movements and the unified Azawad front. The signature on 11 November 1994 of the peace agreements between the rebels and the Ganda Koy Patriotic Movement then put an end to the Tuareg rebellion once and for all, opening the way for the meeting in Timbuktu between the government and its partners in the development of the north of Mali from 15 to 18 July 1995.
Given the domination of the political stage by the ADEMA, the second government formed under Abdoulaye Sékou Sow to replace that of Younoussi Touré was opened out to the opposition. But the experiment was not to last and, under Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita, conflicts with the opposition occurred daily. Preparations for a coup détat involving civilians and members of the armed forces were even uncovered in October 1996. The radical opposition, grouped together in the Rally of Patriotic Forces (Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques RFP), boycotted the adoption by the National Assembly of the electoral law in January 1997. However, it did take part in the Independent National Electoral Commission (Commission Electorale Nationale Indépendante - CENI) and in the adoption of the organic law of 11 February that increased the number of members of the National Assembly to 147.
After the dissolution of the Assembly on 3 March, the first round of the general elections took place on 13 April. Due to the visible organisational difficulties, the opposition requested and was granted the cancellation of the vote. It then ended up withdrawing from the whole electoral process. On 17 May, Alpha Oumar Konaré was re-elected without having to face the main opposition leaders. The general elections of 23 July and 3 August were won by the ADEMA, except for 5 seats won by small moderate parties who agreed to enter the government led, at that time, by Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita.
Today, Mali is certainly a reference when it comes to democratisation and the rule of law. However, an atmosphere of institutional crisis and disagreement between those in power and the opposition still floats over the country. A part of the opposition, notably Choguel Maïgas Patriotic Movement for Renewal (Mouvement Patriotique pour le Renouveau MPR), boycotted the process of local elections in May and June 1999. Along with Maître Mountaga Talls National Congress for Democratic Initiative (Congrès National dInitiative Démocratique CNID), it refuses to recognise the legitimacy of the authorities and is organising campaigns of demonstrations. The government of Mali has undertaken a project of institutional reform. A national forum has been called to think, in particular, about the possible terms of a charter of political parties and the status of the opposition, as well as revision of the Constitution, of the law on the Press and of the electoral law, so as to avoid all the power being monopolised by a single party. As President Konaré cannot stand for the next election scheduled for 2002, the struggle to take his place has created a crisis within the ADEMA. Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Kéita, also President of the ADEMA, was replaced in February 2000 by Mambé Sidibé before being forced to give up his title of President of the ADEMA, when he had hitherto been seen as a probable successor to Alpha Oumar Konaré, the outgoing President. The extraordinary congress of the party held in November 2000 in Bamako appointed Diacounda Traoré as his replacement. This change within the ADEMA is a sign of the decline of the former Prime Minister and also creates new hopes for the opposition parties, who boycotted the last Presidential elections, that they might be able to put an end to the electoral hegemony of the ADEMA in the presidential elections scheduled for 2002.
The Constitution of the 3rd
Republic created a semi-presidential regime in which the wide-raging powers of the
President are balanced by a number of safeguards. The President of the Republic is elected
in a two-round, first-past-the-post vote for a term of 5 years which can be renewed once.
He has the power to dissolve the National Assembly. President Konaré used this right on 3
March 1997. The President of the Republic appoints the Prime Minister and dismisses him
from his functions in accordance with the terms of the Constitution, but as it is a
semi-presidential regime, the possibility of cohabitation does exist and it is the Prime
Minister who is responsible in front of the National Assembly.
The National Assembly is composed of 147 members elected for a 5-year term. It keeps checks on the action of the government and has the initiative of proposing laws, along with the President of the Republic. It can overthrow the government with a vote of no confidence or by refusing to grant its confidence to the Prime Minister on a question of general policy. The domination of the ADEMA in parliament means that the parliamentary majority always coincides with the presidential majority.
The Constitutional Court is composed of nine members appointed in equal numbers by the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the National Assembly and the High Council of the Judiciary, for a term of office of seven years that can be renewed once. It decides on whether the laws comply with the Constitution and guarantees public liberties as well as the fundamental rights of the human being. It is this court that decides in conflicts of competence between the institutions of the State and in electoral disputes.
The High Council of Local Authorities was created to show the countrys determination to decentralise the state. There is also an Economic, Social and Cultural Council as well as a High Council for Malians Abroad.
President Alpha Oumar Konaré announced that a referendum would be held in the first half of 2001 to approve a revision of the Constitution to guarantee greater democracy in Mali.
The legal system is in the process of being renovated via the 10-year Justice Development Programme (Programme Décénnal de Développement de la Justice - PRODEJ). The Supreme Court is the highest legal authority in the country. It is composed of the administrative, judiciary and accounts chambers. The President and Vice President of the Supreme Court are appointed by the President of the Republic who is obliged to respect the proposals of the Higher Council of the Judiciary. The latter body is supposed to guarantee the impartiality of the judges although it is presided over by the President of the Republic. The Malian legal system has entered an active phase of combating corruption launched by President Konaré. The revision of the Constitution proposed in 2001 includes the reform of the legal institutions.
Decentralisation and Devolution
The freedom of the local
authorities to administrate their territories is included in the Constitution. The
decentralisation policy was instituted by law 93-008 of 11 February 1993 determining the
terms of administration of the local authorities. A legal arsenal was adopted on 10
October 1996 to complete the provisions of this law in preparation for the local
elections. These provisions were law 96-050 on the constitution and management of the
domain of the local authorities, law 96-051 setting the fiscal resources of the communes,
law 96-058 determining the fiscal resources of the district of Bamako and the communes
which are a part of it and law 96-059 creating the communes.
Apart from the district of Bamako, Mali has 8 administrative regions as well as rural circles and communes and urban communes. The process of creation of communes which has only become possible with the end of the Tuareg rebellion in the North, is being carried out gradually. Local elections were organised in stages: 2 May 1999 in the first four regions (Koulikoro, Ségou, Sikasso and Kayes, for a total of 492 communes) and 6 June 1999 in four more regions (Gao, Timbuktu, Kidal and Mopti for a total of 190 communes). By the end of this process, 682 new communes administrated by elected councils had been created.
The multi-party system is
written into the Constitution. The country has more than 47 declared parties of which
around 20 are represented in municipal councils, 5 in the government and 8 in the National
Assembly (compared with 11 in the previous term of the National Assembly). The two
institutions, however, are dominated by the party in power, the Alliance for Democracy in
Mali. Nevertheless, there are 4 parties of national importance:
- The Alliance for Democracy in Mali/ African Party for Solidarity and Justice (ADEMA/PSJ), the party of the President. It has an absolute majority in the Assembly with 128 of the 147 seats. Led initially by former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, its President is currently Diacounda Traoré, appointed by the extraordinary party congress of November 2000.
- The National Committee for Democratic Initiative/Faso Yiriwa Ton (CNID/FYT) led by Mountaga Tall, a radical opposition leader.
- The Sudanese Union / African Democratic Rally (US/RDA). This is the oldest party in Mali. It has often been faced with internal splits leading to the creation of several movements (including the Democratic Bloc for African Integration of the late Toéoulé Konaté).
- The Patriotic Movement for Renewal (MPR) led by Choguel Maïga, which identifies itself with former President Moussa Traoré.
Other parties of varying importance include the UFD (Union des Forces Démocratiques - Union of Democratic Forces), the RDT (Rassemblement pour la Démocratie et le Travail - Rally for Democracy and Work), the RDP (Rassemblement pour la Démocratie Populaire - Rally for Popular Democracy), the PDP (Parti pour la Démocratie et le Progrès - Party for Democracy and Progress) and the PARENA (Parti pour la Renaissance Africaine - Party for African Renaissance).
The Malian parliament adopted a law on party finances in July 2000.
The Constitution recognises union pluralism and the right to strike. The political weight of the unions is great. The National Union of the Workers of Mali (Union Nationale des Travailleurs du Mali UNTM) is still the largest union, followed by the National Education and Culture Union (Syndicat National de lEducation et de la Culture - SNEC) and the National Education Federation (Fédération de lEducation Nationale - FEN). There are also unions of judges, lawyers and journalists, etc. The student movement is organised around the AEEM (Association des Elèves et Etudiants du Mali - the Association of Pupils and Students of Mali) which is the most antiestablishment of the Malian union movements. Its actions laid down the foundations of the revolution that overthrew the dictatorship. Recent action compromised the academic year 1998-1999.
The Malian Constitution of 25
February 1992 states the countrys adhesion to the Universal Declaration of Human
Rights of 1948 and the African Charter of Human and Peoples Rights of 27 June 1981.
It also refers to the martyrs fallen on the field of honour for the establishment of
the rule of law and a pluralist democracy.
There is a Ministry of Human Rights and Relations with the Institutions as well as several organisations that fight to defend human rights: the largest movement is the Malian Human Rights Association (Association Malienne des Droits de lHomme - AMDH), although the Mandela Club is also worthy of note, in that since the end of apartheid, it has converted itself to the defence of human rights and democracy. There is also an Amnesty International coordination bureau.
Since the end of the dictatorship of Moussa Traoré, Mali has built one of the best reputations in Africa in the field of human rights. However, the political disturbances following the demonstrations and disagreements between government and opposition over the general elections of 1997 have given rise to regular arrests since 1995. Amnesty has qualified those arrested as being prisoners of opinion. We should also note that former President Moussa Traoré was condemned to death although President Konaré is opposed to the death penalty and commuted his sentence. On top of this, several human rights organisations have expressed worries about the slowness of the legal system, which has led to prisons becoming overcrowding with people awaiting judgement.
Since the fall of President
Moussa Traoré and the National Conference, we have seen an increase in the number of
publications in the written press. There are currently more than fifty of them. Alongside
the government daily LEssor, the main publications are: Le Républicain,
Le Malien, LObservateur, Les Echos, LAurore,
Kabako, Le Tambour, Le Soir, Info-Matin, Sud-Info,
LIndépendant, Le Scorpion, Le Carcan, La Cigale
Muselée, Nouvel Horizon, etc.
Certain organisations have noted a few cases of police excesses with regard to the press, but the Malian press is certainly one of the freest on the continent, as can be seen in the articles and caricatures criticising President Konaré in papers such as LAurore, Le Soir, Sud-Info, Le Scorpion. The President himself, who founded the newspaper LAurore in the 80s, is envisaging the possibility of creating a newspaper at the end of his second term of office. At a meeting of the private press held in Bamako in late 1998, he was praised by the journalists for his sense of fair-play.
The radio-waves are also free and there has been a rapid increase in the number of stations that exist alongside the official government station and the international stations broadcasting in FM, notably in Bamako. One original feature of this landscape is the number of local and community radio stations.
The Malian National Assembly voted a law on the press in July 2000 reducing sentences applied in cases of press offences.