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Mali: ‘Ecowas should have santioned IBK,’ says Choguel Maïga

By Aïssatou Diallo, Special Envoy to Bamako
Posted on Tuesday, 1 September 2020 15:41

Choguel Maïga, leader of the Front for the Safeguarding of Democracy (FSD) . (Emmanuel Daou Bakary for JA)

Mali's Choguel Maïga is one of the leaders of the June 5 Movement - Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP).

Having become one of the junta’s interlocutors, he wants the transition to be led by a civilian government, but regrets the sanctions decided by Ecowas.

Demonstrations hostile to the former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) propelled him to the forefront and, in a few weeks, Maïga became one of the figures of the June 5 Movement – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP).

Today, the leader of the Front for the Safeguarding of Democracy (FSD) – who is also a former Minister of the Digital Economy – is one of the privileged interlocutors of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), born on the evening of 18 August.

READ MORE ‘There has been no coup d’état in Mali’ – Ismaël Wagué, CNSP spox

On 29 August, he was part of a delegation of about ten people who, representing the M5-RFP, met with the junta’s leaders in the Prytanée militaire de Kati, not far from Bamako. A meeting intended to ease tensions when, a few hours earlier, differences had appeared between civilians and military on the organization of discussions on the transition.

This did not prevent Maïga from continuing to believe that the M5-RFP and the CNSP “are the two key actors in the transition for the establishment of a new Mali. He explains this to Jeune Afrique.

Jeune Afrique: An M5-RFP delegation met with the CNSP on August 29 to clear up any misunderstandings, but a first meeting had already taken place on August 26. What topics did you discuss?

Choguel Maïga: We agreed together that our organisations were the two key actors for change, as the CNSP had somehow completed the struggle of the Malian people, which was carried by the M5-RFP. The CNSP informed us that it considered the M5-RFP to be its popular base and that it shared our concerns, even though we had never had any contact before 18 August.

The military also explained to us the substance of the discussions they had had with ECOWAS. They made it clear to us that all the characteristics of the transition would be defined with all the forces involved and that they wanted a participatory process, so that everyone, including the former regime, would take ownership of it.

Now, it is important that we discuss what the transition should be: its duration, format and other characteristics. All of this we will discuss. For our part, we appreciated that the change of regime took place smoothly, without violence. This leads us to believe that the duo we form is on the right track.

What reforms need to be carried out before new elections are held?

The transition will have to write a constitution in line with our traditions and culture, while several countries in French-speaking Africa still have a fundamental law modelled on that of France. We also need to review the electoral process so that the results are truly an expression of the popular will and so that when the people no longer want their president, they can dismiss him.

And then there are several important issues that the transition will have to address: the reform of our defense and security system, the fight against corruption, the organization of counter-powers, so that there can be no all-powerful leader?

Behind all this is the idea that we need to understand why Malian democracy has turned into a nightmare and learn from it.

Would you be in favor of a transition led by a military officer, as the CNSP has proposed to ECOWAS?

In its first statement, the CNSP spoke of a civilian political transition, and that is what we are thinking.

How long should the transition last?

As long as it takes. We must let the Malians decide in a sovereign manner. In any case, the military will not be able to impose itself on them. The fervor is such that today, no one can impose himself on the people.

READ MORE Mali Coup d’État : Military proposes three-year transition

I add that the international community must accompany our country instead of imposing on us the opinions of experts who do not know the reality of the country and the mentality of the Malians. Our people are resistant to suggestion. Moreover, since public opinion has had the feeling that Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was supported from the outside, he has appeared to be a puppet president. His support against all odds would have only confirmed the fact that he was at the service of foreigners.

What do you think of the sanctions imposed by Ecowas?

If we were to apply the ECOWAS protocols on good governance, it is the old regime that should have been sanctioned.

All measures taken by ECOWAS are illegal. The first irregularity is that they were announced by a communiqué from the president of the ECOWAS commission, even though only the conference of heads of state can do so. Furthermore, according to the Community’s additional protocols, a country in crisis cannot be sanctioned.

Finally, I do not know what BCEAO and Uemoa come to do in the decisions of ECOWAS. To strangle the country financially is to play into the hands of terrorists by pushing into their ranks the most vulnerable populations, those whose survival is at stake.

Don’t you have the impression, demonstration after demonstration, that you have participated in the collapse of the State?

We could not save IBK. In fact, he was no longer in charge of the country. An oligarchy had been installed, in which there were members of his family. They were in the high administration, justice and the army.

This oligarchy decided everything, outside of any law, outside of any regulation and outside of any constitutional framework. The state was only a façade, lacquered with the beautiful veneer of the regime’s propaganda with the support of the international community.

READ MORE Mali Coup d’État: The soldiers who brought down IBK

In recent weeks, Ecowas told us that IBK was an elected president and that he had to serve out his term. But democracy is not just about electoral formalism: when a president is elected, it is as if the people gave him a license to lead his destiny, a bit like a driver’s license. But if that person spends his time causing accidents, falling into the gutters and causing deaths, that license should be taken away.

What is the status of the investigations into the deaths of several demonstrators during the 10 and 11 July demonstrations?

We have not been informed of the opening of an investigation. But we have ideas about who is responsible, because we have videos. One of the priorities of the new government will be to set up a commission of inquiry into the case.

Who is now in charge of the negotiations for the release of Soumaïla Cissé, the Malian opposition leader kidnapped last March?

His release is one of the main demands of the M5-RFP. When we met with members of the CNSP, we told them that it should be a priority.

READ MORE Mali: ‘Promoting security must not be done at expense of democracy & human rights’, Obasanjo

The military assured us that it was also part of their concerns.

In order to bring peace to the whole of Mali, do you think a new national dialogue is needed?

The previous dialogue was not one. It was a formality intended to give legitimacy to the government. But 95% of the people who participated in it had been designated by the administration. The opposition, the real opposition, did not take part. Today, we have to make a kind of national conference. All Malians must be able to understand and appropriate what will come out of this transition.

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