News from Mali

Bèjèfanga. Power to all!

Mali: Grassroot democracy and good citizenship in Africa

Charlotte Wiedemann: Author of in-depth reports on Islamic societies. Research trips to Pakistan, Iran, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Yemen and many others for the weekly „Die Zeit ». Reports on African societies, esp Mali. Authoring a book on findings in ten Islamic countries. 

Translation: Sara Percino


Standing in front of this iron door flap wasn’t planned, not at all. The iron flap keeps opening and closing. The flap is part of an iron door, and the door leads to the central prison. Five detained journalists are in custody here, editors and
directors of Malian newspapers. But this was not planned, not in this story that was supposed to cover democracy in Mali, one of the few democracies in Africa.
Every time the iron flap opens, a crowd of women waiting in the street try to get to the  hatch. They are trying hard to shove dishes through it, plastic or tin bowls, carefully covered with cloths. The meals are for their detained relatives; seemingly there are no meals in prison. Mali is a poor country.
There is such a contrast between the banality of the iron prison flap and the dramatic  tone of the Malian newspapers prior to when they fell silent in angry protest. Consisting  of only a few pages and written in French, newspapers are for the educated elites in a country wher e only every fourth can read . Now they are all on strike , leaving a phalanx and supported the democratic insurgence, the one who liberated the country from dictatorship – and ultimately handed over power to a civil government. Throughout Africa this caused surprise. Malians still call ATT “the man of March 26.” That had been the day when the army of the old government gunned down political demonstrations,
when students died bleeding in the streets; ATT finally changed tack.

The “new” Mali: this is how it began, in 1991, 1992. ATT, the hero in uniform,
abandoned politics; only two terms of office later he came back, now as president, elected by the people. And the Malian newspapers, too, are branches of the same tree, offshoots of the new beginning, children of democracy.
But now journalists are detained behind that iron flap.
The background seems bizarre and absolutely hollow. A high school teacher had
assigned his class an essay on a self-written, fictional parable. It’s the story of a young mistress being pregnant by an unnamed president; by creating a scandal she finally urges him to marry her. The story undoubtedly broke some taboos – but it didn’t name any names or any particular country. Unnecessarily the public prosecutor saw an offence to the Malian president and arbitrarily arraigned journalists who reported about the case.
Within days, the five journalists are given suspended prison sentences –in comparison to the things that can happen to journalists in other African countries, this is very minor. But this is Mali, and Mali is in a different league. Is the country, as an association for Human Rights has asked, slipping towards dictatorship?!  The country receives a lot of foreign development aid. However, most of the 14 million Malians feel like playing only a minor role in this democracy. Many citizens are wearing  t -shirts with a party slogan on it; others are dressed in garments sewn from printed cloth displaying political messages. Such textiles are dumped on the market on many occasions. But talking to someone about such a piece of clothing will result in astonishment: Oh, really, there’s written something!
Every evening the national television news show features Malians sitting as eager students in workshops and at seminar tables, while the commentary repeatedly talks of  “participation”, “education”, “information”, and “women” – it is a continuous loop of courtesy addressed to foreign sponsors. Occasionally, a white face appears, it’s the ambassador of X, or the minister -counsellor of Y, promising more aid for participation, information, and women. Still more aid? It sounds like a threat.

The general auditor of Mali produces his annual report: More than 100 billion of West African CFA francs – that is about 150 million of euros – have been embezzled, misused or detoured by the state. This equals 70 percent of all public salaries, as the daily Les Échos notes, angrily calling it “a vampirism against the people”. Corruption inside the  Department of Education effectively took away one book from every student. On a single day, the Department of Energy registered an acquisition of sugared tea amounting to almost €17,000. It happened – what a shame! – on a Sunday, as Malian journalists found out. Tea bags simply are called “Lipton” in Mali; now Lipton is a code word for corruption….

This is the link to read on or to downlod the story written by Charlotte Wiedemann.  

Mali: The Need for Determined and Coordinated International Action

Africa Briefing N°90 24 Sep 2012  from the internatioa  crisis group

Please note the full briefing is only available in French


In the absence of rapid, firm and coherent decisions at the regional (Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS), continental (African Union, AU) and international (UN) levels by the end of September, the political, security, economic and social situation in Mali will deteriorate. All scenarios are still possible, including another military coup and social unrest in the capital, which risks undermining the transitional institutions and creating chaos that could allow religious extremism and terrorist violence to spread in Mali and beyond. None of the three actors sharing power, namely the interim president, Dioncounda Traoré, the prime minister, Cheick Modibo Diarra, and the ex-junta leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo, enjoys sufficient popular legitimacy or has the ability to prevent the aggravation of the crisis. The country urgently needs to mobilise the best Malian expertise irrespective of political allegiance rather than engaging in power plays that will lead the country to the verge of collapse.

Almost six months after a coup overthrew President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT) and the Malian army relinquished control of the three northern administrative regions to armed groups – the Tuareg separatists of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and the Islamist fighters of Ansar Dine (Ançar Eddine), the Movement for Unicity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA) and al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) – none of the pillars of the Malian state was able to give a clear direction to the political transition and to formulate a precise and coherent demand for assistance to the international community to regain control of the north, which represents more than two thirds of the territory. The next six months will be crucial for the stability of Mali, Sahel and the entire West African region, as the risks are high and the lack of leadership at all levels of decision-making has so far been obvious.

The message from Crisis Group’s July 2012 report on Mali is still relevant. It is not a call against the principle of a military action in the north. Indeed, the use of force will probably be necessary to neutralise transnational armed groups that indulge in terrorism, jihadism and drug and arms trafficking and to restore Mali’s territorial integrity. But before resorting to force, a political and diplomatic effort is required to separate two sets of different issues: those related to intercommunal tensions within Malian society, political and economic governance of the north and management of religious diversity, and those related to collective security in the Sahel-Sahara region. The Malian army and ECOWAS’s forces will not be capable of tackling the influx of arms and combatants between a fragmented Libya and northern Mali through southern Algeria and/or northern Niger. Minimal and sustainable security in northern Mali cannot be reestablished without the clear involvement of the Algerian political and military authorities.

Following the high-level meeting on the security situation in Sahel scheduled for 26 September, on the margins of the UN General Assembly in New York, Malian actors, their African and non-African partners and the UN will have to specify their course of action and clarify minimal objectives to be reached by March 2013.

The president and the prime minister should:

  • constitute immediately a small informal group including Malian personalities, preferably retired from the political scene, who have specific skills and significant experience in the areas of internal security, governance and public administration, organisation of elections, decentralisation, inter-community mediation and international relations, in particular regional diplomacy, in order to help the government define a global strategy to resolve the crisis.

ECOWAS leaders should:

  • recognise the limitations of the organisation in mediating the crisis and planning a military mission in Mali, and work closely with the African Union and above all with the UN, which are better equipped to respond to challenges posed by a crisis threatening international peace and security.

The UN Security Council and member states represented at the high-level meeting on the situation in Sahel should provide support to the Secretary-General to:

  • appoint a special representative of the Secretary-General for the Sahel and provide him with the necessary means to achieve his mission, which must focus on reconciling the positions of ECOWAS member states, regional players (Algeria, Mauritania, Niger and Mali) and Western countries;
  • boost the UN presence in Mali to help the transitional government withstand the economic and social crisis, produce a credible roadmap for the restoration of territorial integrity and the organisation of transparent elections as soon as possible, and uphold the rule of law by gathering detailed information on human rights violations committed in the south (in particular in Bamako and Kati) as well as in the north;
  • begin, together with the AU and ECOWAS, a mission to facilitate reconciliation within the Malian army to prevent another military coup with unpredictable consequences.

Mali’s foreign partners, in particular the European Union and the U.S., should:

  • support efforts to reestablish the Malian defence and security forces by enhancing their unity, discipline and efficacy in order to ensure security in the south, constitute a credible threat of the use of force in the north and be able to participate in operations against terrorist groups;
  • contribute to the resilience of the Malian economy, and employment in particular, through a rapid resumption of foreign aid so as to prevent social unrest that risks deepening the political and humanitarian crisis;
  • respond favourably to demands for urgent humanitarian assistance to the civilian population seriously affected by the crisis in Mali and the entire Sahel region, in accordance with what the UN has been advocating for several months without generating mobilisation adequate to the seriousness of the situation.

Dakar/Brussels, 24 September 2012


Press Release  ARACF, Bamako,  April 3th, 2011

Following an invitation on behalf of ARACF (Association des Ressortissants et Amis de la Commune de Faléa – Association of Citizens and Friends of the Municipality of Falea), a delegation from the European Parliament’s Greens/EFA Group came to Mali. Headed by Ms. Eva Joly , and made up of Ms. Michèle Rivasi, Ms. Coralie Guillot, Ms. Catherine Dejour, parliamentary assistants, it visited the Rural Community of Falea (Administrative Division of Kénieba) on 26 March and Bamako from 27 to 29 March 2011.

The delegation was preceded in Falea by a scientific mission of the independent laboratory CRIIRAD (Commission de Recherche et d’Information Indépendante sur la Radioactivité – Independent Research and Information Commission on Radioactivity) based in Valence (France) and funded by the Group of Greens/EFA MEPs. The mission, carried out by Christian Courbon jointly with Bruno Chareyron, Nuclear Physics Engineer in charge of the laboratory, aimed at helping ARACF to finalize the radiation baseline study and at withdrawing samples of soil, mud and from its food chain so as to analyze and evaluate the environmental impact of the exploration
activities of the mining company Rockgate.
On site, the delegation met the Mayor and Town Council, the representatives of all of the community’s 21 villages, the traditional authorities, the coordination of women’s associations, the youth association, the teachers and sanitary personnel and then conducted a field visit in order to ascertain the concerns and life conditions of the local population.
In Bamako, Ms. Eva Joly and her colleagues met various personalities belonging to the civil society in Mali, the highest authorities, including the Minister of Environment and Health-care, Professor Tiémoko Sangaré, the Minister of Mines Mr. Abou-Bakar Traoré, and the President of the Republic of Mali, His Excellency Amadou Toumani Touré.

ARACF’s invitation to the Greens/EFA Group of MEPs is the most recent of a logical sequence of initiatives carried out over the past two years by the association. In fact, after having collected scientific data regarding uranium and radioactivity caused by the exploitation of this mineral from scientific institutions and independent experts in Europe, and after having benefited, thanks to
funding from the City of Geneva (Switzerland), from laboratory training in CRIIRAD on how to establish a radiation zero-point, ARACF asked for the support of the technical authorities in Mali charged with the case. Our first steps have been undertaken together with the Ministry for Environment with a double purpose, that is to:
– get acquainted with the Terms of Reference (TOR) and the timing of environmental and social impact studies foreseen by the law in Mali, so as to prepare the population to participate in its carrying out and in the critical examination of the report that will be submitted to public consultation;
– inform the National Direction of Health-Care, Pollution Control and Public Nuisance about the alarm sent out by CRIIRAD after Rockgate had discovered a highly radioactive area (Kaniya, the Eastern side of Falea’s tableland) near the surface and close to homes and water sources.

AMARAP (the Radiation Hygiene Agency in Mali) has lent a very attentive ear to our request and has promised to support our action (information, counselling, training and supervision) and to be in the field in order to control Rockgate’s activities and perform its own measurements and analyses so as to inform the people of Falea. Most unfortunately, to date, this structure has not been able to obtain the financial resources and logistic means needed to carry out the above-mentioned tasks.

The Direction Nationale de la Géologie et des Mines (DNGM) – the National Direction of Geology and Mines – contacted by us, provided the characteristics of the permit granted to Delta Corporation Inc., but ruled out the possibility of any risk for the environment and the people’s health linked to uranium exploration activities.
Thus, since the beginning of explorations in 2007, no technically competent agency in Mali has ever visited Falea and the mining company acts as it will, more often than not without any respect for the inhabitants and their vital resources (water sources, farmland, animals, etc.). CRIIRAD’s scientific mission in Falea (20-28 March 2011) and the briefing and consultation meeting (30 March 2011), attended by the different technical services in Mali, National Direction for Geology and Mines, Mali Radiation Hygiene Agency, National Direction of Water and Forests, ARACF, CRIIRAD and the mining company Rockgate, have established the following :

  1.  that Rockgate has carried out drilling and coring activities (sampling) on 70 km overall and at depths varying from 200 to 300 metres without any prior precise idea regarding the groundwater level in the different areas ;
  2. that the mining company has not carried out, to date, any sample or analysis of water and muds resulting from their coring activity, nor regarding the chemical composition of amatex, a product the company uses in its drilling and coring activities;
  3. that the company completely ignores Falea’s Rural Community’s hydrography and hydrology. Its drilling operations are not based on any technical documentation in Mali or on any data or information established by the company itself on local hydraulics. As a result, holes are sometimes bored upstream of traditional public water supplies (wells, rivers, etc.) and in basins that pour from Falea’s tableland;
  4. that the company Rockgate, after having started operations in 2007, has never ceased to show an arrogant and contemptuous attitude towards local people, wholly uncaring as regards their existence, activities and ways of life;
  5. that, furthermore, the company’s Chief of Ground Operations, Mr Yann, following instructions from his local direction in Bamako, gave on 2 June 2010 the order to categorically reject ARACF’s proposal to play an intermediary and facilitating role thanks to its knowledge of the terrain and human environment;
  6.  that the environmental impact investigation carried out by Golder Associate since April 2010 and the one by I.P.R (specialized in radiation hygiene) presently ongoing, are conducted outside the regular process required by the Malian State, which provides the framework for their validation by the National Direction of Pollution Control and Public Nuisances;
  7. that one must observe from Rockgate the total lack of practical information and negotiation with Malian technical services for mining activities that are concerned and, in principle, unavoidable, such as the National Direction for Health-Care, Pollution Control and Public Nuisances, the National Direction of Water and Forests and the Mali Radiation Hygiene Agency;
  8. that there is a lack of coordination among concerned technical departments.

1 Member of the European Parliament, Chairwoman of the Development Committee

2 Member of the European Parliament, Vice-Chairwoman of the Environment Committee