When Constantino Chiwenga, Zimbabwe's vice-president and health minister, suspended by-elections in October 2020 citing Statutory Instrument ... (SI) 225A as a means to curb Covid-19, many believed a new date would be set. Instead, the government has remained silent on the matter, with many wondering if this is truly a measure to control the pandemic, or a strategy by the ruling Zanu PF to stop the MDC Alliance from winning back seats it lost after the recall by its breakaway party, the MDC-T.
Its establishment has been in the making for some time. Though it has yet to fully take shape, the National Transitional Council (CNT) is already provoking the ire and distrust of many political parties and civil society groups. Its critics allege that the military has carved out for itself the lion’s share of the council’s 121 seats, taking 22 of them.
The legislative body’s method for allocating seats – one-third of whose members may, together with the president of the transition, initiate the revision of the transition charter – was set by two decrees dated Monday, 9 November. The first decree, published in the Government Gazette of the Republic of Mali, defines the transitional body’s membership criteria and specifies that the vice president of the transition, Assimi Goïta, is responsible for determining the final list of members “after reviewing applications”. The second decree details the method for allocating seats.
Both provisions provoked the ire of political parties and coalitions, which have 11 seats on the CNT. The day after the decrees were published, statements from several parties were released one after the other. They are critical of the military’s overrepresentation on the council, expressing their refusal to participate in the body and calling on activists to demonstrate against it.
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“[These decrees] are quite simply unacceptable,” read a statement issued by the 5 June Movement – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP), the group behind the protests against Mali’s former president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK). Accordingly, the group refuses to participate in the council. These decrees “have unmasked and revealed the purely military nature of the transition, which has the outward appearance of a civilian transition but is no longer fooling anyone”, wrote the M5-RFP, issuing a call for supporters to “join the resistance”.
This stance comes from a movement that had praised the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) for getting IBK to resign on 18 August. However, since then the relations between the two parties have quickly deteriorated. As early as September and the organisation of the national consultations aimed at establishing a framework for dialogue between the constituents of the nation to define a transition framework, the M5-RFP had criticised the CNSP for casting it aside and accused the party of seeking to monopolise the transition.
On 24 October, the M5-RFP alerted its supporters that the military had “violated its commitments” and alleged that they had selected the president and prime minister of the transition, Bah N’daw and Moctar Ouane, “maliciously and fraudulently”. Inviting the Malian people to “stand up” and to “condemn the political restoration under way”, the group also demanded, “as is their due”, that it be allocated one-fourth of council seats as well as the presidency – a much higher proportion of seats in the legislative body than what they were ultimately given.
Lack of inclusiveness
The movement is far from being the only group to have distanced itself from the military-led transition. Since 11 November, many parties have expressed serious reservations about the CNSP’s way of going about things. One particularly unpopular aspect is that the vice president of the transition has the final say in the selection of the body’s members.
Yelema, the party of former prime minister Moussa Mara, has thus indicated that it has no plans to apply to receive seats on the CNT. “We didn’t ask for any posts. We were told to provide CVs and to leave the final decision up to the military,” said Hamidou Doumbia. “It would have been fairer for each party to have been allocated a set number of posts.”
With the parties learning on social media that they had a 48-hour window to submit their names, the spokesperson for Yelema lamented the lack of inclusiveness shown by the authorities in charge of the transition, especially in a context where “society is reaching a boiling point”. “What this country really doesn’t need is further destabilisation,” he said. “If this transition is supposed to last 18 months and is already marred by all these problems, without a discussion framework, it’s going to be a difficult road ahead.”
Other groups, including the Presidents’ Conference of the Together for Mali (EPM) coalition (the former majority party) and the Convergence for the Development of Mali (CODEM), have also declined to participate in the council. CODEM has invited its members to “stand together” against the “military’s clear desire to meddle in politics” and that it may not recognise the CNT and its decisions.
“The charter has been violated because it indicates that the vice president is exclusively entrusted with matters of defence and security. The council isn’t supposed to have a supervisory role over parties,” said Housseini Amion Guindo, president of CODEM, adding that there’s “something fishy going on”.
READ MORE Mali: Who’s who in the Bamako coup
“We warned everyone about the risks involved in this transition. [This method of appointing CNT members] has reaffirmed what we already knew,” said Choguel Maïga, an M5-RFP leader, on the same day the movement was expected to take a decision on what strategy to pursue going forward.
Guindo has initiated a “call to action” and is pleased that “every significant political party in Mali” has declined to participate in the CNT. “We will use whatever means necessary and, if need be, take to the streets again so that this abuse of power won’t be tolerated,” he said.
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