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Mali: Former president Moussa Traoré dead at age 83

By Jeune Afrique
Posted on Wednesday, 16 September 2020 11:58

Former Mali president Moussa Traoré arrives to th swearing-in ceremony of former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, on 4 September 2013 in Bamako, Mali. ( Emmanuel Daou Bakary / Jeune Afrique)

In power from 1968 to 1991, Mali's Moussa Traoré, who forcibly took over from Modibo Keïta, the 'father of independence', has died in Bamako at the age of 83.

He had burst onto the Malian political scene in November 1968. Based on growing popular discontent with Modibo Keïta, a group of young officers, including Lieutenant Moussa Traoré, overthrew the Malian ‘father of independence’ on 19 November.

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The putschists had set up a Military Committee for National Liberation (CMLN), which abolished the Constitution and established a regime of exception. Initially president of the CMLN, Traoré officially becomes president of the Republic on 19 September 1969.

Twenty-three years of reign

Was the ambition of Mali’s new strongman, as he never stopped declaring, to steer the country towards a healthy economy that had been ruined by Modibo Keïta’s collectivist management and to restore freedom that had been taken away by the single party?

During his 23 years of reign, the general failed to achieve any of these objectives. He even set up an even more repressive system, tolerating no contestation and systematically eliminating his rivals. Moussa Traoré, who had developed a taste for power, clung to it.

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In Bamako, discontent began to brew against a backdrop of demands for a multi-party system. On 17 March 1991, several political parties and associations marched in the capital in memory of a student leader assassinated on 17 March 1980.

Burkina Faso’s President Thomas Sankara and Mali’s President Moussa Traoré in Yamoussoukro, Côte d’Ivoire, 17 January 1986. (Michel Saouma / Archives Jeune Afrique)

A few days later, on 22 March, these protest organisations set up a Coordinating Committee of Democratic Associations and Organisations, more commonly known as the ‘Democratic Movement’. The demonstrations were repressed in blood: 200 people were killed during these events.

On 26 March 1991, several officers staged a coup d’état, arrested Moussa Traoré and set up a Transitional Committee for the Salvation of the People led by Lieutenant Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT). The now ex-president is imprisoned and sentenced to death in 1993. His successor, Alpha Oumar Konaré, commuted his sentence to life imprisonment and finally pardoned him in 2002.

Discreet, refusing requests for interviews, he had been living peacefully in a villa in the Malian capital, occasionally playing the role of mediator.

Meeting with Assimi Goïta

At the beginning of the Malian political crisis, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, the leading figure of the protests that had rocked Bamako since early June, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, then president, and Boubou Cissé, its Prime Minister, all met in the home of Traoré.

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More recently, it was Assimi Goïta, the head of the National Council for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), who came to power following the coup of  18 August, who came to visit Traoré at his home. The former president later explained that he had given Goïta advice.

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