By Roger Annis, July 15, 2013
Remember Mali? In an election process reminiscent of Haiti following the 2010 earthquake, Mali will hold a presidential election on July 28. Again reminiscent of Haiti, there will be several dozen candidates, 28 to be exact! Below are two news reports that profile the candidates. (Not all of the weblinks in the two reports have been reproduced below, so for those details, go to the original publication of each.)
Further below those two reports is a report on the participation of soldiers of the armed forces of Mali and 12 other African countries in this year’s Bastille Day celebrations in Paris. Their role was part of the plan that turned the day into a celebration of France’s claimed military victory in Mali this year.
For background and explanation of this election, read my reports from May 2013.
The first news report on the election, from France 24, lists a selection of candidates only. Missing from its list is Dr. Oumar Mariko of SADI (Solidarité africaine pour la démocratie et l’indépendance). He was a founder of SADI in 1996 and previously ran for president in 2002 and 2007.
SADI supported the military coup in March 2012 against then-president and venerable political figure in Mali’s modern history Amadou Toumani Touré. The party is a fierce opponent of the political movements of minority nationalities and tribes in the north of Mali that are seeking political autonomy from the government based in Bamako, the capital city in the south.
SADI has criticized the France military intervention that began in January 2013 for usurping the lead role that Mali’s weak and human rights-violating national army should otherwise be playing in prosecuting a war in the north against the national minorities. It was the defeat of the army in early 2012 at the hands of Tuareg-led political and military forces that prompted first the military coup and then the France intervention.
Bastille Day is the most important anniversary date in France of the world-shaking French Revolution of 1789 that overthrew the rule of the French monarchy and declared a democratic republic. On February 4, 1794, under the impact of an unfolding social revolution in Haiti–itself inspired and propelled forward by the Revolution in France–the French National Assembly voted to abolish slavery, including in all of the country’s colonies. That measure was later reversed, at first secretly, then openly, by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1801-03. He sent a massive invasion force of 50,000 soldiers into Haiti in 1803. France suffered its final military defeat in Haiti at Vertières, in the north near Cap Haitien, in November of that year. The Republic of Haiti was declared on January 1, 1804.
Profiles: Mali’s 2013 presidential candidates
Despite security concerns and warnings that the country is not ready for elections, Mali goes to the polls on July 28 in the first presidential vote since last year’s coup. FRANCE 24 profiles some of the candidates in the 2013 race.
By Leela Jacinto / Priscille Lafitte, France 24, July 10, 2013
More than a year after a military coup led to the cancellation of presidential elections scheduled for April 2012, Mali goes to the polls on July 28 in the first vote since northern Mali was wrested from Islamist control by a French-led military intervention.
Despite widespread criticism that the July date is too rushed, Malian officials have come under considerable international pressure to stick to the election schedule. France and the US are eager to see this West African nation return to constitutional order, which would facilitate a security handover to a legitimately elected government.
The official 2013 presidential campaign kicked off shortly after the July 6 lifting of a state of emergency, which was imposed when the French offensive began in January. Mali’s constitutional court has approved 28 candidates, including four former prime ministers and a female candidate.
Here are some of the leading contenders for Mali’s presidential race:
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita: The 68-year-old veteran politician, known as “IBK”, was Mali’s prime minister from 1994 to 2000. Following his resignation from office, IBK launched the Rally for Mali (RPM) party in 2001. He has made two previous, unsuccessful bids for the presidency – in 2002 and 2007. IBK lost both elections to former Malian president Amadou Toumani Touré (aka “ATT”), who was ousted in the 2012 coup. Born in Koutiala in southern Mali, IBK was educated in Mali and France, and has held top positions at various international NGOs in addition to diplomatic postings and political posts. IBK was the frontrunner in the scrapped 2012 election and was supported by a number of smaller political parties.
Soumaila Cissé: Born in Timbuktu in northern Mali, Cissé, 63, was the runner-up in the 2002 presidential poll, losing the second round to ousted president Amadou Toumani Touré. A year after the 2002 poll, he founded the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) party. Educated in Mali and France, Cissé is a software engineer by training and has worked in several French companies. A former finance minister, Cissé fled his Bamako home following the March 2012 coup after he was attacked by Malian soldiers loyal to coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo. On the campaign trail, Cissé has called for the junta to stay away from political power.
Modibo Sidibé: At 60, Sidibé has variously served as Mali’s prime minister, foreign minister and presidential chief of staff. Born in the capital of Bamako, Sidibé was a police chief before launching his political career. Considered an ATT (Amadou Toumani Touré) loyalist, Sidibé has been arrested several times since the March 2012 coup. In a recent interview with FRANCE 24, Sidibé insisted he did not have a complicated relationship with the Malian army or the Sanogo-led junta, which ousted ATT. “I do not confuse the junta and the Malian army,” he maintained.
Tiébilé Dramé: Born in the southwestern Malian town of Nioro du Sahel, Dramé was foreign minister in the transitional government from 1991 to 1992 following the 1991 coup. The 58-year-old politician stood for presidential elections in 2002 and 2007, losing both elections to Amadou Toumani Touré, who was ousted in the March 2012 coup. Educated in Mali and France, Dramé is also a journalist and was a researcher at Amnesty International in the 1980s. He has served as the UN envoy charged with dealing with the 2009 political crisis in Madagascar and was also a government representative at the 2013 peace talks between Malian authorities and the Tuareg MNLA (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad) group, which culminated in a peace deal in June. The peace deal enabled Malian troops to enter the then MNLA-controlled northern Malian city of Kidal.
Soumana Sacko: A former finance minister in the 1980s and prime minister under Amadou Toumani Touré’s 1991-1992 transitional presidency, Sacko launched a campaign bid for the 1997 presidential race before withdrawing his candidacy. He supported Touré in the 2002 and 2007 races and was a candidate in the 2012 election, which was scrapped due to the March 2012 coup. Sacko is 64 and has previously served as a senior official at UNDP (United Nations Development Programme).
Haïdara Aïchata Cissé: Mali’s only female presidential candidate is a former trade unionist and businesswoman. The 54-year-old parliamentarian shot into the national spotlight during the 2007 general elections, when she was voted from the Gao constituency of northern Mali, a region that is “100% Muslim,” as she told the French weekly, Jeune Afrique. A diminutive woman popularly known by her nickname, “Chato”, Cissé is running as an independent and her chances of winning the 2013 race without the machinery and backing of a political party are slim. But Cissé maintains that she has the support of women’s and youth groups as well as ordinary Malians who would like to see a fresh face in politics.
Niankoro Yeah Samaké: Dubbed “Mali’s only Mormon presidential candidate,” Samaké is certainly not a frontrunner in the 2013 race, but he has nevertheless excited the US press. At 44, Samaké is the youngest presidential candidate. Born into a poor family in Ouéléssébougou in southwestern Mali, Samaké’s life took an unusual turn when he met a Mormon couple from Colorado while working for the NGO, Ouéléssébougou-Utah Alliance. The couple sponsored his trip to the US, where he earned a master’s degree at Brigham Young University and converted to Mormonism, married, and settled in Utah before returning to Mali, where he was voted Ouéléssébougou mayor in 2009. Samaké does not believe his Mormon faith hinders his political ambitions in a Muslim-dominated country. “I was elected mayor in Ouéléssébougou, a town where 90 percent of the population is Muslim,” he told the US daily, The Christian Science Monitor. “My faith is not a problem! In fact it will help me win the elections.”
Cheick Modibo Diarra: This 61-year-old astrophysicist has had a successful career in the US – at NASA and Microsoft (he was appointed director of Microsoft Africa in 2006), before entering politics in his native Mali. On April 17, 2012, he was appointed interim prime minister shortly after the military junta led by Captain Amadou Sanogo officially handed control to a civilian transitional administration. But barely eight months later, he was placed under house arrest by soldiers loyal to Capt. Sanogo. Shortly after his arrest, Diarra appeared on state television and announced his resignation and that of his government. Diarra is the son-in-law of Moussa Traore, a former Malian coup leader and president, and also holds US citizenship.
Dramane Dembélé: The 46-year-old engineer by training is the surprise candidate for Mali’s largest Adéma (Alliance for Democracy in Mali) party. Although Dembélé does not have extensive political experience, he is believed to have close links to Mali’s interim president Dioncounda Traoré.
A glance at Mali’s 2013 presidential candidates
By Bruce Whitehouse, published on the writer’s blog ‘Bridges from Bamako’, July 15, 2013
Ready or not, here it comes: the first round of Mali’s presidential election is less than two weeks away. Despite the many technical and political difficulties besetting its preparation, a postponement now looks unlikely.
Malian and UN officials keep saying this election won’t be perfect, which is a little like saying that a Metallica concert won’t be quiet. The real question, of course, is whether Malians will regard its outcome as legitimate. The answer will depend in part on the degree to which voting takes place in the northern region of Kidal, where the governor (responsible for organizing the voting) recently returned for the first time since 2011 — only to head back to Bamako a few hours later, amid reports that Tuareg leaders had asked him to leave. It will also depend on how many people turn up at the polls nation-wide, and how many of those are turned away due to logistical failures.
While we wait to see what happens, let’s consider Mali’s field of presidential candidates. In the interest of completeness I’ve researched all 28 of them, and written a brief profile of each below. My purpose is not to identify and comment on the likeliest winners — I’ll save that for my next post — but to make some observations about Mali’s political system.
Note, for instance, that the vast majority of these candidates represent parties that they themselves founded. Mali’s political parties tend to be fan clubs for individual politicians, and their membership exists for patronage; political platforms and ideologies are at best secondary concerns (though they do seem to be getting more emphasis now than in previous elections). Several candidates have switched parties multiple times before establishing their own.
These candidacies also illustrate the strong links between Mali’s current crop of aspiring leaders and its previous generation of leaders. Five of these presidential hopefuls have close personal or political connections to President Moussa Traoré (1968 – 91); three served in governments of President Alpha Oumar Konaré (1992 – 2002); six served in governments of President Amadou Toumani Touré or “ATT” (1991 – 92 and 2002 – 12), and five others belong to parties that supported ATT politically. Five candidates last year ran afoul of the junta, which detained four on suspicion of corruption and treason before releasing them without charge, and forced another to resign from office.
Below, in alphabetical order, are the individuals approved by Mali’s constitutional court to enter the race.
- Jeamille Bittar (Union des Mouvements et Associations du Mali, b. 1967) Born in the Segou region, of Lebanese and Malian ancestry; earned a master’s in engineering in the USSR. Wealthy and influential businessman, head of Mali’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, active in economic, civil society, and political circles. Former VP of the Parti pour le Développement Economique et Social (PDES), which strongly backed ATT during his rule.
- Haïdara Aïchata Cissé a.k.a. “Chatto” (independent candidate, b. 1958) Native of Bourem (Gao region) and the field’s lone female. Former Air Afrique union activist; now an outspoken parliamentarian and PDES member. Running as independent since her party decided not to enter a candidate. Rose to global attention in 2012 by speaking out in the media against the Islamist and separatist rebel takeover.
- Soumaïla Cissé a.k.a. “Soumi” (Union pour la République et la Démocratie, 1949) Born in Timbuktu; trained as software engineer. Joined President Konaré’s ADEMA party and headed three different ministries under Konaré between 1993 and 2000. Started his own party in 2003 after unsuccessful bid as ADEMA’s presidential candidate; chaired the West African Monetary Union (2004 – 11).
- Youssouf Cissé (independent candidate) Complete unknown, lacking a campaign website or even a Facebook page; with the exception of a couple of appearances on ORTM, he has been ignored by the Malian media.
- Dramane Dembélé a.k.a. “Dra” (Alliance pour la Démocratie en Mali – Parti Pan-Africain pour la Liberté, la Solidarité et la Justice/ADEMA-PASJ, b. 1967) Geologist and ex-Director General of Mali’s Ministry of Geology and Mines (2005 – 10). Won the nomination of Mali’s most powerful party despite never having held elected office before. Was on executive committee of powerful AEEM (Association des Élèves et Etudiants du Mali) student union in early 1990s.
- Cheick Modibo Diarra (Rassemblement pour le Développement du Mali, b. 1952) Former NASA astrophysicist and ex-head of Microsoft Africa; served as interim prime minister from April to December 2012; forced to resign by junta. Married to daughter of former President Moussa Traoré.
- Siaka Diarra (Union des Forces Démocratiques, b. 1963) Koulikoro native and English professor; took over the UFD party from the late Demba Diallo. Has never held elected office.
- Tiébilé Dramé (Parti pour la Renaissance Nationale/PARENA, b. 1955) Foreign minister during ATT’s transitional government (1991 – 92). Founded PARENA in 1995; ran unsuccessfully for president in 2002 and 2007. Brokered the Ouagadougou Accords in June 2013, and is advocating a delay of the vote.
- Housseini Amion Guindo a.k.a. “Poulo” (Convergence pour le Développement au Mali/CODEM, b. 1970) Bandiagara native raised in Sikasso; former history teacher; has represented Sikasso in Mali’s National Assembly since 2005.
- Cheick Keita (Union pour la Démocratie et l’Alternance) A colonel in Mali’s customs service and political unknown.
- Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta a.k.a. “IBK” (Rassemblement pour le Mali, b. 1945) Koutiala native; served as President Konaré’s campaign director, then foreign minister, then prime minister (1994 – 2000). Left ADEMA to form his own party, then became speaker of the National Assembly (2002 – 07). A contender in the 2002 and 2007 presidential elections.
- Sibiri Koumaré (Sira) A political unknown with only a Facebook page for publicity; lacks any mentions in the Malian press.
- Alhousseini Abba Maïga (Parti pour un Nouveau Afrique/PANAFRIK, b. 1976) The field’s youngest candidate; a Songhai with little name recognition, no strong party base and a skeletal website. His platform centers on appeals to youth voters and Pan-Africanism.
- Choguel Kokalla Maïga (Mouvement Patriotique pour le Renouveau, b. 1958) Gao native who ran for president in 2002, then served as ATT’s minister of industry and commerce (2002 – 04). Backed ATT’s reelection in 2007.
- Moussa Mara (Yelema, b. 1975) Probably the best-known member of a new generation of leaders who came of age during Mali’s post-1991 period. Elected mayor of Bamako’s Commune IV as an independent in 2009; founded the Yelema (“change,” in Bamanan) party in 2012.
- Dr. Oumar Mariko (Solidarité africaine pour la démocratie et l’indépendance/SADI, b. 1959) Physician born in Bafoulabé (Kayes region); secretary general of AEEM student union in early 1990s. Founded the radical leftist SADI party in 1996, and previously ran for president in 2002 and 2007.
- Dr. Soumana Sako a.k.a. “Zou” (Convention Nationale pour une Afrique Solidaire – Faso Hèrè Ton, b. 1950) Holds a doctorate in development economics from the University of Pittsburgh and has worked for the UN, the African Development Bank and the US Agency for International Development. Viewed by many as a solid technocrat during a stint as finance minister under President Traoré (1986 – 87), he was ATT’s prime minister during the 1991-92 transition to democracy, and made a short-lived presidential bid in 1997.
- Niankoro Yeah Samaké (Parti pour l’Action Civique et Patriotique, b. 1969) Mayor of the town of Ouéléssébougou; holds a master’s in public policy from BYU and is vice president of Mali’s League of Mayors. Best known abroad as “the Mormon candidate,” though his affiliation with the Church of Ladder-Day Saints is generally ignored by the Malian press.
- Mamadou Bakary Sangaré a.k.a. “Blaise” (Convention Democrate Sociale – Mogotigiya, b. 1954) Career-long civil servant and political activist. Founded the CDS in 1996 and ran for president in 2007.
- Konimba Sidibé (Mouvement pour un Destin Commun, b. 1956) Deputy from Dioïla; ex-cabinet minister (1991 – 92). Split from PARENA this year to form his own party.
- Modibo Sidibé (Forces Alternatives pour le Renouveau et l’Emergence, b. 1952) Former inspector-general of Mali’s national police; headed up the ministries of health and foreign affairs under President Konaré. Was ATT’s secretary-general of the presidency before becoming his prime minister (2007 – 11).
- Dr. Hamed Sow (Rassemblement Travailliste pour le Développement, b. 1952) French-trained production engineer, minister of energy under ATT. Currently an adviser to Prime Minister Django Cissoko.
- Mountaga Tall (Congrès National d’Initiative Démocratique/CNID, b. 1956) Lawyer; founded CNID in 1991; placed 3rd in the 1992 presidential race. After boycotting the 1997 poll, ran again in 2002. Has represented the city of Ségou in Mali’s National Assembly since 2002.
- Racine Thiam (Convergence d’Action pour le Peuple, b. 1975) Another young hopeful with scant political experience and a fledgling party. Has a French business degree and worked most recently as communications director for Orange Mali, one of the country’s two cell phone networks.
- Oumar Bouri Touré a.k.a. “Billy” (independent candidate) Deputy from Goundam (Timbuktu region), loyalist of former president ATT and the PDES party.
- Oumar Ibrahim Touré (Alliance pour la République, b. 1957) Twice a cabinet minister under ATT (2004 – 2010). Left ADEMA in 2003 to join Soumaïla Cissé’s URD; founded his own party in 2013.
- Cheick Boucadry Traoré a.k.a. “Bouga” (Convergence Africaine pour le Renouveau – Afriki Lakuraya/CARE, b. 1962) Has never run for office or served in government, but his father Moussa was Mali’s president for 23 years. Bouga’s CARE party backed ATT during the latter’s presidency.
- Ousmane Ben Fana Traoré (Parti Citoyen pour le Renouveau) Onetime ATT ally and adviser to the presidency; affiliated with the UK-based International Liberal federation.
Africans join French on Bastille Day
By Sylvie Corbet Associated Press, July 15, 2013
PARIS — Troops from 13 African countries that took part in the French-led war against al-Qaida-linked extremists in Mali marched with the French military during the Bastille Day parade in Paris on Sunday to honor their role in the conflict.
U.N. troops in blue berets who are helping stabilize the West African nation of Mali also paraded with thousands of other soldiers down the Champs-Elysees Avenue in France’s annual tribute to military might. It marks the storming of the Bastille prison July 14, 1789, by angry Paris crowds that helped spark the French Revolution.
Despite the triumphal display, which included flyovers by fighter jets, tanks and giant trucks mounted with land-toair defense systems, the realities in Mali suggest that President Francois Hollande’s military intervention has had mixed results.
The mission he launched in January helped the Malian government retake control of much of the country from al-Qaida-linked extremists who had seized northern Mali and threatened the capital. The nation is to hold elections July 28, but tensions involving rebel Tuaregs in the north linger, along with political instability.
Sunday’s events, however, focused on the positive. “It’s a victory that was won,” Hollande said in an interview after the parade with the France 2 and TF1 television stations in the garden of the presidential Elysee Palace. “Look at what happened. It was a victory for Africa, a victory against terrorism, and pride that we must have.”
Hollande oversaw the display of military might that France rolls out each year on Bastille Day with Mali interim President Dioncounda Traore and U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon at his sides. Defense ministers from the African nations represented in the parade also were present.
French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said before the parade that the display is “the mark of a solidarity that concretely expressed itself in Mali, and of a common destiny, even beyond the limits of continents, of which we have every reason to be proud.”
But some critics say the Mali operation and African presence in the parade reflect France’s ambiguous and sometimes patronizing relations with the continent — especially with former colonies such as Mali — often referred to as “Francafrique.”
The French nongovernmental organization Survie, which fights neocolonialism, condemned “the self-proclaimed role of gendarme of Africa that France claimed in Mali.”
“This parade gives a scent of victory to a military operation which is far from being reasonably presented like that, given the numerous shadows that surround it and the remaining uncertainties concerning its outcome,” said Fabrice Tarrit, the president of the association.