Mali: Is prime minister Choguel Maïga trying to postpone elections?

By Fatoumata Diallo

Posted on Friday, 2 July 2021 18:04
Thousands of Malians gather after IBK’s resignation at Bamako’s Independence Square, 21 August 2020. Anadolu Agency via AFP

Mali’s prime minister Choguel Kokalla Maïga has referred to the upcoming national dialogue, which is due to be held in September, as the “government's second major priority”.

He said it would allow Mali to perform “a shared diagnosis of the seriousness and depth of the crisis” affecting the country and to become aware of “the issues, challenges and structural vulnerabilities” that it must address. The stated objective of the “national conference on rebuilding” is to “rebuild the state”.

“All the documents that arise from the various conferences will serve as raw material to develop the framework,” the prime minister said on 21 June. “This will be sent to all the regions, circles and communes so that citizens can discuss amongst themselves.”

Ikassa Maïga – one of his closest allies who was recently appointed minister of state refoundation, responsible for institutional relations – was selected to to lead this project.

“An umpteenth national dialogue”

The Mouvement du 5 Juin – Rassemblement des Forces Patriotiques (M5-RFP), of which Maiga had been one of the main leaders before he become prime minister, had planned to organise these meetings. However, with only eight months to go before the theoretical end of the transitional period, do the Malian authorities really have enough time to organise a constructive national dialogue?

The question is all the more relevant given that Mali, which has held many such consultations that did not lead to any concrete developments, had a national dialogue in September 2020, that was initiated by the Conseil National pour le Salut du Peuple (CNSP) – the military junta that led the coup against former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK).

If we continue on this path, the outcome is clear: in October or November, the prime minister will tell us that we cannot hold elections because we have not had enough time to organise them.

It was at the end of this previous dialogue that the roadmap of the transitional period was decided and its duration fixed. In drawing their conclusions, the various actors – politicians and representatives from civil society – had relied heavily on the work of the dialogue national inclusif (DNI), which was organised in 2019 by IBK and considered to be the country’s most successful national dialogue to date. However, neither the DNI’s recommendations nor those that emerged last September, have been implemented.

“An umpteenth national dialogue won’t lead to anything,” says Lamine Savané, a research professor in political sociology at the Université de Ségou. “The resolutions of the 2019 DNI, which was nevertheless a success, have not been followed up on. In particular, there were two key measures which involved reviewing the 2015 peace accord and establishing a single election management body. We are still far from achieving either.”

According to the political scientist: “it would have been better to tackle the major problems involved in organising elections and set up an ad hoc commission to oversee them, as well as deal with the country’s security crisis.”

Supporters of these meetings say it is not a question of rehashing solutions already proposed, but rather of “correcting the errors and inadequacies of the past,” says Jamille Bittar, the M5’s spokesperson. “Whether we like it or not, we have to go to this conference, and the government is working on it. This time, we will make sure that a pact is sealed between the state and Malians so that all the conclusions reached can be applied during and even after the transitional period.”

The international community’s diktat

On 10 June, while Maïga met with several leaders from the Parti pour la Renaissance Nationale (Parena), its leader Tiébilé Dramé pleaded for a “round table” of two days at most, during which political leaders and members of civil society would be able to lay a “solid foundation” from which to emerge after the transitional period. This would be a way of encouraging dialogue without wasting time.

These new meetings “are the M5’s idea, it was part of Choguel’s programme when he participated in the demonstrations that were demanding IBK’s departure. And today, he wants to impose it on Malians,” says Housseim Amion Guindo, president of the Convergence pour le Développement du Mali.

For his part, former prime minister Moussa Mara is less severe in his criticism: “He comes from a movement that called for these meetings, so it is only natural that he wants to apply it once in charge.”

Except that, according to Dramé, “if we continue on this path, the outcome is clear: in October or November, the prime minister will tell us that we cannot hold elections because we have not had enough time to organise them. If we stick to the timetable set by the transitional government, Mali has eight months left to organise the referendum, the local elections and the combined presidential and legislative elections.”

But M5’s Bittar argues that the February 2022 election deadline is supported by “many political figures who are focused on elections and who think that Mali’s problem will be solved by the ballot box” and, above all, “imposed from outside”.

“We have to put an end to the international community’s diktat, which is imposing an electoral calendar on us,” he said. “If Malians decide that, for objective reasons, we need to lengthen or shorten the transitional period, we will do so.”

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