Mali is in a difficult situation at the moment. After a period of competitive and relatively successful democracy from 1991/1992, there was a coup earlier in March this year. This was followed by the de facto annexation of the northern part of the country by Islamists and the creation of the so-called territory of Azawad.
The March coup was led by Captain Amadou Sanogo. It occurred just before the presidential election. President Amadou Toumani Touré, who was not standing for re-election, was ousted. Those responsible for the coup claimed that he was not dealing properly with the then Tuareg rebellion in the north. The Constitution was also suspended.
In April the Constitution was reinstated. Dioncounda Traoré was appointed President and Cheick Modibo Diarra was appointed as PM. There is no timetable for elections.
On Monday night PM Diarra was taken into custody by the military and he was obliged to step down. On Tuesday morning he announced that the government had resigned. President Traoré soon announced his replacement as Django Sissoko, who was previously the Secretary-General of the Presidency from 2008 to 2011 and the Ombudsman from 2011 to 2012.
Captain Sanogo has since claimed that PM Diarra was forced to resign because he was not respecting the office of the presidency. He has claimed that the act was not another coup. Generally, it seems to be a reaction to the fragmentation of political debate following the coup in March. Overall, Sanogo seems to want to restore order without taking power himself.
The situation in Mali, or at least the region controlled by the authorities in Bamoko, is perhaps gradually returning to normal.
As I mentioned in a previous post, the constitution was restored back in April. At that time, the ousted president, Amadou Toumani Touré, stepped down, or, rather, was obliged to do so. However, in conformity with the constitution, the Constitutional Court then ruled that the interim president was Dioncounda Traoré. He was previously the President of the National Assembly and was next in line. In turn, President Dioncounda Traoré appointed Cheick Modibo Diarra as the interim prime minister. A full government was then formed. More than that, the leader of the coup, Amadou Haya Sanogo, is not part of the government. So, by the end of April there was a sense that constitutional order was returning.
That said, the situation is still very fluid. Towards the end of May, demonstrators were able to enter President Dioncounda Traoré’s office and beat him up. He has since gone to Paris for treatment. There is a sense that this action was at least tacitly allowed by the coup leaders. There are also reports that he is effectively in exile there. This would seem to suit the coup leaders. In addition, there are also reports that the prime minister has to do the bidding of the coup leaders, even though they are not formally part of the political process. So, the extent to which there has been a return to civilian rule can be questioned. What is more, in the north the self-proclaimed state of Azawad is increasingly out of the control of the international community, never mind the security forces in Mali. So, the main motivation for the coup remains as problematic as ever.
Generally, the political system is still not functioning normally. The National Assembly has, so far, not been able to elect a replacement president. There is no date for elections to be held and little debate about when they are likely to occur. The Economic Community Of West African States (ECOWAS) is intervening very actively to try to rein in the coup leaders and to restore constitutionality. However, we seem to be in a situation that more resembles a ‘normal’ coup, rather than the benign coup that occurred in Niger in 2010 and that successfully managed a transition of democracy.
The situation in Mali seems to be becoming more regularised.
On 6 April the coup leaders agreed a deal with the negotiators from the Communauté économique des Etats d’Afrique de l’Ouest (ECOWAS in English) to restore power to civilians. This provoked a lifting of the sanctions that had been imposed on Mali.
On Sunday 8 April, the ousted president, Amadou Toumani Touré (ATT), is reported to have officially resigned. This was part of the deal with the coup leaders.
ATT’s resignation means that the president of the National Assembly, Dioncounda Traoré, will become acting president. An acting prime minister will now be named. This interim team will be in charge of organising elections.
Generally, it seems as if constitutional order is being restored. That said, given rebels now seem to be in control of half of the country, it will be difficult to organise proper elections in Mali as a whole.
Under pressure from the international community and faced with the growing threat from the rebels in the north of the country, the leaders of the coup in Mali have officially restored the 1992 constitution. The declaration is available in French here.
The declaration does beg the question that if the constitution is restored, then why is the president not back in power? Moreover, there is a caveat. The declaration states: “However, given the multidimensional crisis which the country is going through and in order to allow the right conditions for a transition and the preservation of national cohesion, we have decided, under the auspices of a mediator, to embark upon consultations with the living forces in the country in the context of a national convention with a view to the organisation of peaceful, free, open and democratic election which we will not participate in”. So, not only are the institutions not really restored, there will be a period before elections are held during which time there will be a national convention. It is difficult to imagine such a convention being held in the context where half of the country is under the control of rebels.
Generally, the coup leaders are under pressure. They are under pressure from the international community to restore democracy and they are under pressure from the fact that the rebellion has got much worse since they took power, yet they took power because they claimed that the previous administration had not dealt properly with the rebellion.
There is a little more background on the coup here.
There has been a coup in Mali. The president, Amadou Toumani Touré, has been ousted. The coup leaders have suspended the constitution and established a so-called Comité national pour le redressement de la démocratie et la restauration de l’Etat (CNRDRE) – National Committee for the Restoral of Democracy and Restoration of the State. The whereabouts of President Touré are currently unknown. He seems to be in hiding rather than in the hands of the military rebels.
The coup seems to have been motivated by the security situation in the north of the country, the so-called Touareg rebellion where there is a secessionist movement. There have been military defeats in this area, which is also where islamist forces are operating. It seems as if the coup leaders felt that the government of President Touré was not doing enough to stabilise the situation there.
President Touré himself came to power in a coup in 1991. He guided the transition to democracy and then stood down, allowing free elections. He played no part in domestic politics for the next ten years. He returned to political life in 2002, being freely elected then and re-elected in 2007.
Presidential elections were due to be held in little over a month. President Touré was term-limited and there was a fierce competition to succeed him. However, the campaign, unlike the situation in Senegal earlier this year, was peaceful. There was no obvious frontrunner in the campaign, which would most likely have gone to a second round. So, while the coup leaders may have been anxious about what the policy of any new president would have been, they must have assumed that, whoever won, the policy towards the northern region would have been, in their eyes, at least as bad as the current situation. Hence, they moved now and not later.
In Mali it has been decided that the proposed constitutional reforms that would, inter alia, change the system from a premier-presidential to a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism will be held at the same time as the first round of the presidential election next year. This means that it will be held on 29 April 2012.
This is an interesting decision. The reform is associated with the incumbent president, Amadou Toumani Touré, who has been a paragon of democracy since 1992 and who has been president since 2002. However, the reforms are controversial and ATT (as he is called) is term-limited and will not be contesting next year’s election. So, will ATT’s popularity ensure that the reform is passed, or will the fact that the election is open mean that people will judge the constitutional reforms on their merits?
There is opposition to reform, but they were passed by a large majority in the legislature. The various candidates for next year’s election have not yet been confirmed. Their attitude to the reform will certainly help to sway the vote.
Mali’s process of constitutional reform has moved one step closer. Last week, the National Assembly approved the reform bill by 141 votes in favour to three against with one abstention.
The text of the bill was presented in a previous post. There is a report that 28 amendments were made to the original bill. However, up to now, I do not have the text of the final version of the bill. From what I can gather, though, the amendments were minor.
The changes will now be put to a referendum.
The text of the proposed constitutional reform has now been made available. It can be accessed in French here. The bill proposing the reform was approved by the Council of Ministers on 15 June. The National Assembly is due to receive the bill for debate later this week.
The reforms are substantial. For example, a new upper house, the Senate, is being created. In terms of semi-presidentialism, two features stand out.
The first is that Art. 29 now states that the president “defines the policy of the Republic”. Previously, this was the responsibility of the government.
The second is a change to Art. 38. This now reads: “The president names the prime minister and terminates his functions”. Previously, it read: “The president names the prime minister. He terminates his functions when the latter presents the resignation of the government”. In other words, this article has been reworded to give the president the implicit right to dismiss the prime minister. This would shift the system from a premier-presidential to a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism, which would be a very unwelcome development.
Assuming the bill is approved, it will be put to a referendum next year.
There is a new Prime Minister in Mali. The previous incumbent, Modibo Sidibé, resigned at the end of last week. He had been in office since September 2007.
He has been replaced by Cissé, Mariam Kaïdama Sidibé (i.e. she was born Sidibé and has taken the name Cissé following her marriage.)
She is the first female PM in Mali and her appointment has been greeted as a surprise, not least for this reason. Previously, she held a ministerial position in 1991-1992 and then very briefly in 2002. However, she can be considered a technocrat.
She was appointed by President Amadou Toumani Touré known as ATT), whose second term ends in 2012 and who is term-limited.
There has been an ongoing process of constitutional revision in Mali. In December 2008 (see previous post), the so-called Diawara report recommended a number of constitutional changes. Following a further period of reflection, it appears as if changes might be about to follow.
According to the Mali daily, L’Essor, Daba Diawara has now produced more detailed recommendations. In a speech marking the presentation of the proposals President Amadou Toumani Touré announced that he expected the government to submit a constitutional reform bill before parliament very soon. Assuming the bill was approved (and the president definitely made that assumption), President Touré said that a referendum would be held in autumn.
I do not have a copy of the new proposals or the bill, but the salient aspect for this blog is the report that the bill will modify the country’s semi-presidential system. Specifically, the newspaper report states: “Le président de la République aura également la possibilité de mettre fin aux fonctions du Premier ministre sans que celui-ci ne démissionne” [the president will be able to dismiss the PM unilaterally].
In other words, the reform, if the report is to be believed, will change Mali from a premier-presidential to a president-parliamentary form of semi-presidentialism.