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Malian presidential candidates adjust to new reality

After last week’s coup in Mali, it has been assumed that the president election scheduled for April 29 has been, uh, indefinitely postponed.

Indeed, in less than a week, France has suspended its “cooperation” with Mali and the United States, the European Union, the African Development Bank and the World Bank have all cut off their aid to Mali, but the coup’s leaders have declared a new constitution and promised fair elections in due course, in which none of the coup actors would participate.  Current president, Amadou Toumani Touré, who has been president for a decade (and who is known simply as “ATT”) and was set to step down after April’s election after a decade in office, and who had not been heard from or seen since the coup, stated yesterday he was unharmed, and he called for a quick solution to the standoff:

“I am free in my country,” he said in his first public comments since his removal last week.

“The most important thing is not about my well-being. I am two months to the end of my mandate. I think the most important thing today… is to find a way out of the crisis.”

The coup, led by Capt. Amadou Haya Sanogo under the banner of the Comité national pour le redressement de la démocratie et la restauration de la démocratie et la restauration de l’état (“CNRDRE”) ousted ATT on the basis that the current government was not doing enough to stop Tuareg rebels who have since January been agitating in the sparse desert north of the country, which is culturally closer to the Libyan desert tribes than to the majority of the Malian population in the south.

Yeah Samaké, a candidate in that election who has received significant press in the United States as a BYU-trained Mormon candidate in a heavily Muslim country and who may or may not have been a frontrunner in advance of the scheduled election, weighed in on last week’s coup in an interview with Public Radio International.

Samaké stressed that he opposed the action and recounted his firsthand account of last Wednesday’s coup:

I was right in front of the radio station when they attacked the ORTM, the national televisions. We found ourselves surprised by militaries with gunfires, so there’s a light that clicked in my head, ‘This is likely to be a coup d’etat.’

Samaké added that the presidential candidates have formed a united front against the coup and meet daily to discuss strategy.

The coup leaders had apparently arrested and imprisoned another former prime minister and presidential candidate, Modibo Sidibé, but have since released him, although not without noting that Sidibé seemed to be predestined as ATT’s favorite to succeed him: Continue reading Malian presidential candidates adjust to new reality

The other West African presidential election this spring

As Senegal prepares for its presidential election runoff, now scheduled for March 25, and takes the correspondingly greater number of international headlines, West Africa’s next presidential election is just next door a month later on April 29 in Mali.

When you think about Mali, start with Senegal, its very predominantly Muslim and formerly French neighbor.

Then make it 6 times larger and move it inland without any coast and fill it with mostly desert.

Add just about 2 million more people, but shrink GDP per capita until it’s just two-thirds as wealthy (not like Senegal is so wealthy to begin with, even compared to its African peers).  This makes Mali one of the world’s poorest countries, although it has steadily grown at upwards of 5% a year since the 1990s following reforms instituted by the administration of Alpha Oumar Konaré, who served as president of Mali from 1992 and 2002 — in between the stagnant dictatorship of Moussa Traoré and current president Amadou Toumani Touré.

Then replace the history of tense, but steady, democratic norms with a history of unfair elections and coups through the first 30 years of its post-independence history.

While you’re at it, also add in a nationalist movement of the Tuareg people — a nomadic Berber group that has more in common with Libya and North Africa than Senegal and West Africa — in Mali’s sparsely populated northern region of Azawad, where tensions have also, unfortunately, recently re-ignited.

Got all that? Continue reading The other West African presidential election this spring