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Has Mali’s transitional government really changed anything?

By Aïssatou Diallo
Posted on Wednesday, 5 May 2021 23:18, updated on Tuesday, 11 May 2021 15:43

© © DOM for JA

Eight months on from the start of the transition government, have things really changed? Has the government reduced corruption? So far, besides the promises, it does not seem that much progress has been made.

The military members of the former Comité National pour le Salut du Peuple, which was in charge during the coup of 18 August 2020, promised to put an end to these bad practices. Going further, they have given themselves the mission of “refounding” the Malian nation.

Waiting for “renewal”

After being reopened in March 2020, the key cases of corruption and embezzlement within the army – such as overinvoicing of arms contracts and the acquisition of the presidential plane, which implicate the former president’s close associates – have not progressed. No officials from the former regime have been prosecuted for corruption or bad governance.

In mid-February, during the presentation of the government’s action plan to the Comité National de Transition (CNT), prime minister Moctar Ouane insisted on the need for a “renewal of governance”. While waiting for this “renewal”, legislative and regulatory texts as well as institutions already exist that ensure the transparency and accountability of those who act in the name of the state. But they still need to be given the means to fulfil their roles and to allow the justice system to be independent.

To ensure that Mali’s citizens respect the law, the example must be set by those in power. However, although the president is required to declare his assets, as is enshrined both in the constitution and the transitional charter, neither transitional president Bah N’Daw nor vice-president Assimi Goïta have done so.

Another “small” breach of the law is the very composition of the CNT itself. This body, which is responsible for examining and voting on laws in the absence of the national assembly, does not respect the texts that govern its formation and the distribution of seats.

Mutual mistrust

Finally, the transitional government appears to be replicating the pattern of clan-based management that IBK was criticised for. Several parties and civil society organisations argue that the army has too much power.

Since the beginning of the transition, some political leaders have harboured a deep mistrust of the military, which they hold responsible for the situation in which the country finds itself. But they forget that they too are responsible for ensuring the country’s safety. In addition, several members of the government and the CNT held senior positions under IBK, including the president of the transition, Bah N’Daw, who was minister of defence.

A few days before the coup, a leaked report by the UN Panel of Experts on Mali suggested that frustration was growing within the army. Some felt that they were risking their lives in the field without having the proper means to do so, while senior officers were taking it easy.

And the fact that an increasing number of military personnel have been appointed to high-level positions within public and government institutions is not likely to change this impression.

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