Category Archives: Mali

Constitutional reforms underway in West Africa

A number of countries in West Africa are undergoing a constitutional reform process, in pursuit of stronger, democratic institutions: Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali. Senegal held a constitutional referendum earlier this year. In stark contrast to recent constitutional changes and ongoing debates in the Central Africa region – Congo Brazzaville, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo – where focus has been on extending presidential terms, the declared intent of some of these reforms is to build bulwarks against presidential overreach and overstay.

The constitutional changes in Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire and Mali follow the violent overturn of democratic processes in all three countries, albeit under very different circumstances. In Benin and Senegal, constitutional reform was a promise of the presidential campaigns of Patrick Talon and Macky Sall, respectively.

Constitutional review commissions in Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire are preparing completely new constitutions. A principal concern in Burkina Faso is to find ways to “lock in” presidential term limits and to better balance strong presidential powers. It was former President Blaise Compaoré’s attempt at removing presidential term limits that led to his overthrow in October 2014 in a popular uprising. A 92-member commission representing the ruling party, opposition parties (including the CDP of Compaoré) and civil society (including labor unions and traditional authorities) was seated in early June. Its members have two months to present a new draft constitution. The draft will undergo popular consultations, go to the president for comment and be finalized by the commission before submission to a popular referendum. Opposition parties have demanded, however, that the decisions of the constitutional commission be reached by consensus, threatening to walk out on the process otherwise.

In Cote d’Ivoire,  President Ouattara appointed a commission of 10 experts at the end of May, giving them a month to make proposals for a new constitution. During the month of June, Ouattara himself undertook consultations with opposition parties, civil society, traditional leaders and others to receive their suggestions before scheduling a referendum to take place before the end of the year. Key expected changes include the introduction of a vice-presidency and the rewording of article 35 which requires a presidential candidate to be born of both parents of Ivorian origin. The constitutional review process is controversial, however. Opposition parties criticize it for being insufficiently participatory, rushed and ill-timed, as the country has yet to fully heal and reconcile after the 2010 election-related violence.

In Mali, a 13-member expert commission is charged with proposing revisions to the 1992 constitution to incorporate provisions of the 2015 Algiers peace accord signed between the government of Mali and former rebel groups. The constitutional commission will have six months to complete its job. The 1992 constitution is the consensual product of the 1992 National Conference and is vested with significant popular legitimacy. It is unlikely to be completely scrapped and replaced.

The constitutional revision that passed by referendum in Senegal in March of this year shortened presidential terms from seven to five years, and added wording to clarify that “no one can serve more than two consecutive terms” (Art. 27). Other articles were amended to provide for greater oversight by the National Assembly and Constitutional Court, although changes affecting presidential powers are overall fairly minor.

In an even more radical move, newly elected President Patrice Talon of Benin has suggested that presidential terms be limited to one single term. A 35-member commission with representation from political parties and civil society was charged with proposing a series of political and institutional reforms. The commission submitted its report on June 28. The report includes two constitutional scenarios – one where the current two five-year terms are maintained, the other where they are replaced by one single six- or seven year term. The commission was divided on the issue, as some members were concerned a single term would not provide sufficient incentives for accountability.

The process and focus of these various constitutional reforms vary and reflect different priorities and political realities in each country. Overall, however, the combined picture is one of democratic dynamism that contrasts sharply with the institutional atrophy witnessed in other regions of the continent.

Scott Straus – Making and Unmaking Nations

This is a guest post by Scott Straus, Professor of Political Science and International Studies, University of Wisconsin, Madison

faculty61

In Making and Unmaking Nations, I set out to understand why genocide occurred in some places but not in others. The answer is complex, of course. But a good part of the story, I found, has to do with long-running political ideologies, which stem from decisions that presidents had made previously. To understand then why genocide happens, or does not happen, leadership matters. I further argue that some of Africa’s first generation of presidents, which today do not often receive credit, had a long-term positive impact on the political trajectories of their countries.

Some background on the project: for the past 18 years, the focus of my research has been genocide. My first book focused on the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. From there, I sought to develop a general theory by employing comparative methods. As I worked on that subject, I developed two main critiques of the existing literature. The first is that scholars typically compared genocide cases to genocide cases. A common comparison included the Armenian genocide, the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide, and Bosnia, for example. The second is that scholars compared cases that were quite different—in terms of world region, historical time period, and the countries themselves.

My research thus privileged two comparative principles. First, genocide cases should be compared to non-genocide cases, in particular ones that possessed many of the drivers that scholars believe cause genocide. The operative question became: what was commonly different among the non-genocide cases compared to the genocide cases? Second, the comparative frame should aim for greater structural similarity among the cases. All told, I decided to focus on post-Cold War Sub-Saharan Africa. For the non-genocide cases, I examined Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal. For the genocide cases, I examined Rwanda and Darfur.

The non-genocide cases all experienced a civil war that could be construed as being fought along identity lines. In Côte d’Ivoire, for example, there was a civil war that began in 2002 in which the rebels were based in the north and were primarily Muslim. They fought against a Christian, southern-led government, and the rebels fought in the name of ending discrimination against Muslim northerners. In Mali, in the early 1990s, Tuareg and Arab rebels fought the government in the south, also in the name of their communities. In addition to war, the countries experienced political transition. In Côte d’Ivoire, there was a succession fight, failed elections, and a coup. In Mali, the country was transitioning from an authoritarian system to a multi-party one. Moreover, in each country there was low-level, unpunished violence against civilians committed by state forces and in some countries there were pro-government militias, even hate media. On balance, these factors represented much of the consensus in the genocide studies literature about the causes of the phenomenon.

So what was different about the non-genocide cases? Part of the answer lies with the dynamics of the armed conflict, in particular the level of threat that the rebellions posed to the central governments. In Côte d’Ivoire, an international intervention halted the rebel advance and separated the two sides. In Mali, the rebels were confined to the north. In Senegal, the rebels were restricted to the far south. In contrast, in Rwanda the rebels ultimately overpowered government forces. Darfur is more complicated. There the rebels were limited to the west but they were able to score some significant military success and threaten local, government-allied actors.

But alongside questions of threat, I also discovered an element that surprised me. In particular, in the non-genocide cases, when I conducted interviews with leading military and political actors, as well as intellectuals in the country, they consistently said something along the lines of, “We do not define this fight as a war between one identity group and another identity group.” In effect, they argued that the nation was multi-ethnic or plural. In some cases, they also claimed that dialogue, rather than war, was a founding principle of politics in their country.

That raised the question of why? Why in places like Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal did at least some elites not define the armed conflict in identity terms? Obviously not everyone held such views. In these countries, there clearly were elites who framed the fight as a war between ethnic groups or religious groups. But a significant current did not.

The answer that I develop in the book concerns “founding narratives,” or public stories that define who constitutes the primary political community of the country, who should hold power, and what values, if any, define the national political community. They are “founding” in the sense that they define first principles of the nation and were developed at critical junctures when regimes changed. That included when countries became independent or when regimes transitioned from one type to another, say as they transitioned from authoritarian states to democratic ones.

At these critical junctures, presidents faced and made choices about how to define their nations. In some cases, they explicitly fashioned and promoted a plural or multi-ethnic vision. They said, in effect, “we are a country of many groups,” and they in turn developed policies that allotted institutional or development power across the country. To be sure, there was favoritism, but the vision was of a multi-ethnic nation. In contrast, in other countries, the claim was that the state belonged to a primary identity group, which was said to have political primacy over another identity group that shared the same territory.

To explore this proposition, I developed a database of presidential speeches for the five main countries in the study. For each year, prior to the onset of a military crisis, I selected the same two national holidays when presidents typically delivered addresses to the nation. I in turn sought to track what kinds of themes were developed, and then to see whether those themes reappeared when the military crisis unfolded.

The finding in brief is that presidents in Côte d’Ivoire, Mali, and Senegal consistently developed themes of pluralism, unity, tolerance, and dialogue as fundamental to their nations while in Rwanda and Sudan presidents promoted the idea that the state represented the interests of Hutu and Arab Muslims, respectively. In war, these ideological visions in turn shaped the strategies and tactics that military and political leaders crafted in response to threat. Where the nation was imagined as plural, the idea of fighting a final war against another ethnic or religious group was not in the repertoire of action. By contrast, if elites saw a threat emanating from a group that did not deserve power against a group that did, the idea of a war of destruction against the former group became imaginable.

The story is more complicated than that. One has to ask whether and how these founding narratives took root in a country. One has to ask whether there were counter-narratives and also whether other factors shaped escalation or de-escalation. But in the end I attribute significant impact to ideological visions and to the presidents who developed and promoted them. In Africa, the likes of Félix Houphouët-Boigny, Léopold Senghor, and Alpha Oumar Konaré displayed real leadership. They were not saints, but their visions for the nation created bulwarks against genocide and similar forms of mass violence against civilians.

Scott Straus is Professor of Political Science and International Studies at UW-Madison. Scott specializes in the study of genocide, political violence, human rights, and African politics. His most recent book publication is Making and Unmaking Nations: War, Leadership, and Genocide in Modern Africa (Cornell University Press, 2015). His introductory book on genocide, Fundamentals of Atrocity Prevention, is scheduled for publication in late 2015 by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. He has also published several books on Rwanda, including The Order of Genocide: Race, Power, and War in Rwanda (Cornell University Press, 2006); Remaking Rwanda: State Building and Human Rights after Mass Violence (University of Wisconsin Press, 2011); and Intimate Enemy (Zone Books, 2006). Scott also co-authored (with David Leonard) Africa’s Stalled Development (Lynne Rienner, 2003), translated The Great Lakes of Africa (Zone Books, 2003) and co-edited (with Steve Stern) The Human Rights Paradox (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014). He has also published in the American Journal of Political Science, Perspectives on Politics, Foreign Affairs, World Politics, Politics & Society, Journal of Genocide Research, African Affairs, Terrorism and Political Violence, Genocide Studies and Prevention, and the Canadian Journal of African Studies. Scott has received fellowships from the Andrew Mellon Foundation, the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation, the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the United States Institute of Peace. In 2009, he was awarded the campus-wide William H. Kiekhofer Distinguished Teaching Award and in 2015 a Distinguished Honors Faculty award. In 2011, he was named a Winnick Fellow at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. He co-edits the book series Critical Human Rights with Steve Stern. Before starting in academia, Scott was a freelance journalist based in Nairobi, Kenya.

 

Mali – Analysis of final legislative elections results

Mali held second-round legislative elections on December 15, to fill 127 remaining seats after only 20 out of 147 seats were filled in the first round of the polls on November 24th. Despite a suicide attack in the northern city of Kidal the previous day that killed two Senegalese UN-peacekeepers, election day was peaceful.

Voter turnout at 37.2% was slightly down from the 38.5 % in the second round and significantly lower than the record 49% who voted in the first round of the presidential race in July, 2013. However, this was still a respectable show of interest in a country that historically has seen voter turnout hover between 20 and 40 %.

Not surprisingly, the party of newly elected President Ibrahim Boubakar Keita (IBK) won the lion’s share of seats, though his party, the Rally for Mali (RPM), fell short of an absolute majority. Final results validated on January 2, 2014 by the Constitutional Court are as follows:

RPM (ruling party):                                                                                      66 seats

URD (largest opposition party):                                                                   17

ADEMA (largest RPM ally):                                                                         16

FARE:                                                                                                           6

CODEM:                                                                                                       5

SADI:                                                                                                            5

CNID:                                                                                                            4

PARENA, PDES, MPR, ASMA:                                                                    3 seats each

ADP, CDS, MIRIA, UM RDA:                                                                        2 seats each

YELEMA, UDD, PRVM and APR:                                                                1 seat each

Independents:                                                                                               4                     

                                                                                                                      TOTAL 147

 Overall, national and international observers deemed the electoral process satisfactory, though the EU international observation delegation noted the Constitutional Court’s uneven review of electoral complaints from the first round. In Djenné, this resulted in the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) having to face off against an RPM-Adema list following the Court’s decision to cancel the vote in certain polling stations. Preliminary results had given a first round win to the URD. Ultimately, the URD won the two seats in Djenné in the second round of the polls. After the second round, the Constitutional Court threw out results from a number of polling stations in the districts of Gao, Nara and Niono, leading to a reversal for nine deputies. The reallocation of seats following the Court’s decision largely favored the RPM – to the detriment of Adema and some of the RPM’s smaller allied parties.

The new National Assembly will see a significant renewal with a number of long-serving legislators losing their seats, while new political parties – such as FARE and ASMA – have made inroads in the legislature. President IBK’s son, Karim Keita, will represent Commune II of Bamako, elected on the RPM list. Women candidates did not benefit from the renewal, however, with only 14 elected (9.5% of seats), a decline from the 15 women deputies winning in 2007.

The final results confirm the URD, the party of presidential runner-up Soumaila Cissé, as the 2nd largest political formation in the country – ahead of Adema, the party that held a relative majority in the previous legislature. Adema has been weakened by internal leadership struggles and has gradually lost ground, after controlling both the presidency and a legislative majority in the years following the democratic transition in the early 1990s. IBK and Cissé are both former leaders of Adema. Local alliances in the establishment of lists for the multimember legislative districts reflect the still fluid nature of politics in Mali, with RPM-URD alliances in Diola and Tenenkou, URD-Adema alliances in Bamako and elsewhere, and even URD-SADI alliances in Gao and Koutiala (SADI having supported the former junta of General Sanogo, while Cissé remained the junta’s strongest opponent). For detailed results per voting district see here.

With Adema and a number of smaller allied parties, the RPM has a comfortable legislative majority of about 115 seats. Under Mali’s semi-presidential constitution, President IBK will thus be in a position to appoint a prime minister who has the backing of the ruling majority. It will be interesting to see if IBK will want to revive the constitutional referendum initiated by his predecessor, President Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT). If passed, the constitutional reform would among other things have strengthened presidential powers by allowing the president to dismiss the prime minister at will – a change that effectively would have moved Mali from the premier-presidential to the president-parliamentary sub-type of semi-presidential regimes. Robert Elgie has shown the latter sub-type to be associated with poorer democratic performance than the former. Hopefully, IBK will be busy with reconciliation in the north and leave such constitutional reform aside for the moment. 

Shifting sands in Mali – toward a new model of parliamentary strength?

This is a guest post by Lauren Kunis, Program Manager at the National Democratic Institute (lkunis@ndi.org)

Malians went to the polls on November 24 to elect 147 members of the National Assembly (AN) – a final step in the country’s return to democracy following a March 2012 coup d’etat that catapulted the country into a downward spiral of intertwined political and security crises.  In Mali’s two-round electoral system, a party list or independent candidate list must win an absolute majority of votes in the first round in order to be awarded the district’s parliamentary seats. Seats are attributed to districts based on population, with districts this year having between one and seven seats up for grabs.  Last week’s first round of voting was largely inconclusive, and 44 of 55 electoral districts will hold a runoff election on December 15. Only 22 out of the 147 seats were won outright in the first round.

Voting proceeded in a largely peaceful fashion, but the big story was the dismal turnout across the country. Domestic and international observers all remarked on the limited presence of voters in the polls, and the official results released on November 27 cited a 38.5 percent participation rate. Malians’ lack of interest in the election of their new MPs could perhaps most plausibly reflect the limited importance that citizens attach to the work of the legislature and the low regard in which they hold it. In a November 2012 survey conducted by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation, 46.5 percent of Malians stated that they had “no confidence” in the AN, with an additional 10 percent responding that they had “no opinion.” 

 Mali’s weak legislature was one of several festering weaknesses in the country’s first two decades of democracy. The AN failed to reflect the vast array of citizen priorities and provide an effective check on executive branch power. It rarely introduced its own legislation, opting instead to summarily pass bills submitted by the executive – very often unanimously.  A hallmark of the last five years was a “consensus model” of government in which parties were gradually co-opted by former president Amadou Toumani Touré’s political movement. By 2012, of the 13 parties represented in the legislature, only one party with nominal representation (4 of 147 deputies) belonged to the political opposition.  This discouraged partisan differentiation and a true, issue-based debate that would pique citizens’ interest, encourage political engagement, and broaden political participation beyond a narrow class of elites. 

 This summer, Malians elected Ibrahima Boubacar Keita (IBK) of the Rally for Mali (RPM) party to the presidency. Narrowly missing a first-round victory, IBK was elected with a resounding 77 percent of the vote in an August runoff election. Having distanced himself from the prevailing parliamentary coalition in the months following the coup, it was in IBK’s best political interest to organize legislative polls as quickly as possible in order to capitalize upon this surge of support to secure the “comfortable legislative majority” he desired. Meanwhile, presidential runner-up Soumalia Cissé of the Union for Republic and Democracy (URD) party vowed to turn his attention toward creating a unified, vocal, and empowered parliamentary opposition.

An analysis of the party lists presented in Mali’s legislative polls reveals that Cissé may fall short in delivering on this promise. There are not consistent party alliances across the country that would foreshadow a solid opposition in the new legislature. Rather than forming national electoral coalitions, party leaders at the local level scrambled to form alliances in an ad-hoc fashion that would allow them the best chances for victory at the polls. This is starkly illustrated by instances in which IBK’s ruling RPM party presented joint lists with Cissé’s opposition URD. In other districts, the URD formed alliances with the fringe SADI party, a vocal supporter of the March 2012 coup that overthrew the former regime of which the URD had been a solid supporter. 

 Mali’s next legislature needs to re-earn the trust of the Malian people by demonstrating that it is an autonomous body for debate – not simply a rubber-stamping entity for the president. A strong parliamentary opposition would be a big part of this. Despite the lack of consistency in the opposition parties’ electoral alliances, can Cissé bring a new model of parliamentary strength to Mali? Or will legislators fall prey to old habits and enter into a second era of consensus politics – to the detriment of the legislature and Malian citizens alike?