Africa News Roundup: The UNSC and Mali, HRW on Boko Haram, Abyei, Somali Oil, and More

The United Nations, from yesterday:

Citing the threat to regional peace from terrorists and Islamic militants in rebel-held northern Mali, the United Nations Security Council today held out the possibility of endorsing, within the next 45 days, an international military force to restore the unity of the West African country.

In a unanimously adopted resolution, the 15-member body called on Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to provide, at once, military and security planners to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the African Union (AU) and other partners to help frame a response to a request by Mali’s transitional authorities for such a force, and to report back within 45 days.

Upon receipt of the report, and acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, the Council said it was ready “to respond to the request of the Transitional authorities of Mali regarding an international military force assisting the Malian Armed Forces in recovering the occupied regions in the north of Mali.”

Human Rights Watch released a new report on Thursday entitled “Spiraling Violence: Boko Haram Attacks and Security Force Abuses in Nigeria.” From the summary:

This 98-page report catalogues atrocities for which Boko Haram has claimed responsibility. It also explores the role of Nigeria’s security forces, whose own alleged abuses contravene international human rights law and might also constitute crimes against humanity. The violence, which first erupted in 2009, has claimed more than 2,800 lives.

Governor Mu’azu Babangida Aliyu of Nigeria’s Niger State speaks about Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau.

VOA:

The long term success of an oil and security deal between Sudan and South Sudan could depend on the much disputed Abyei border region.

That’s why Princeton Lyman, the U.S. Special Envoy for Sudan and South Sudan, says Abyei’s exclusion from the agreement between presidents Omar al-Bashir and Salva Kiir is “a big, big loss.”

Abyei is a territory claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan. The residents of Abyei were supposed to hold a referendum in 2011 to determine which country they would join, but the referendum was postponed indefinitely due to disagreements over who was eligible to vote. Some are still proposing that Abyei hold a referendum, but Sudan’s government opposes the idea. More from VOA:

The Sudanese foreign ministry spokesman, Al-Obeid Ahmed Marawah, says his government prefers a political agreement over a plebiscite because “the referendum would end by attributing Abyei to one of the two countries.

“And this will not satisfy the other party. Therefore, this could cause a new conflict between the two people [ Messriyah and Ngok Dinkas] of Abyei and it might extend to between the two countries,” Marawah says.

And that, in turn, threatens the new deal over the sharing of oil-revenue, which Ambassador Lyman says “holds tremendous potential benefits for the people of both countries, particularly in South Sudan where there has been serious rises in food prices, shortages of fuel, and insecurity on the border.”

In addition to French President Francois Hollande’s trip to Senegal yesterday and his stop in the Democratic Republic of the Congo today, two other noteworthy visits to the Sahel by foreign officials: Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper was in Senegal for Thursday and Friday, while Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights María Otero will be in Mauritania from October 15-17 and France from October 18-19.

In Mauritania, Under Secretary Otero will meet with government officials, including President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, representatives from civil society, UN agencies and youth groups to discuss political and democratic developments in the country, electoral processes, refugees and humanitarian assistance and combating trafficking in persons. This is the most senior-level U.S. State Department visit to Mauritania in five years.

Somalia’s new government “does not plan to nullify oil and gas exploration contracts made in recent years in favour of those that were signed prior to the toppling of the government in 1991, a senior state official said on Friday.”

Fatal flooding continues in Niger.

What else is happening?

French President Francois Hollande in Senegal

French President Francois Hollande spoke in Dakar, Senegal today, on his first visit to Africa since taking office. His next stop is the Democratic Republic of Congo for the 14th summit (French) of the International Organization of the Francophonie (ie, the French speaking world).

Press coverage of Hollande’s appearance in Senegal has emphasized two themes: the contrast between his tone and the one his predecessor President Nicolas Sarkozy struck five years ago, and Hollande’s focus on the crisis in northern Mali.

On the first theme:

Analysts say he chose Senegal for his first visit to the continent due to the country’s democratic credentials, and also because Senegal is expected to play a central role in the planned military intervention in neighboring Mali to flush out the Islamic extremists controlling north Mali.
For the Senegalese though, what is front and center is the memory of Sarkozy’s 2007 speech, in which he said: “The tragedy of Africa is that the African man has not fully entered into history … They have never really launched themselves into the future,” Sarkozy said. “The African peasant only knew the eternal renewal of time, marked by the endless repetition of the same gestures.”
People attending his speech delivered at Dakar’s largest public university were so insulted that some walked out.

Sarkozy’s statements were offensive and wrong.

On the second theme:

The Mali crisis will dominate Hollande’s talks today in Dakar with President Macky Sall of Senegal, a neighboring secular* nation with a majority Muslim population, according to French officials…France has been an outspoken supporter of the use of force against Islamist rebels controlling the arid north of its former colony and drafted a United Nations Security Council resolution that calls for a detailed military plan for intervention within 30 days. The Economic Community for West African States has called for UN backing for a regional military contingent. Ivory Coast and Senegal have pledged to contribute troops.

“The objective is to wipe out terrorism,” Hollande said during a joint press conference with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Oct. 9 in Paris.

Seneweb has video footage of Hollande’s arrival at the National Assembly. Senegal, of course, has a new president too, Macky Sall, who was elected earlier this year. Much has changed for France, Senegal, and West Africa since 2007.

*Is it though?

Mauritanian Islamists Reject the Idea of External Intervention in Mali

Amid Mali’s ongoing crisis, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has proposed to send some 3,000 troops there to help Malian government forces retake the Islamist-held north. Other external actors, such as France, have indicated that they would support such an intervention logistically. Talk of interventions is drawing reactions within Mali but also from its neighbors.

Reactions in Mauritania, Mali’s neighbor to the west, are worth watching. Mauritania sent troops into northern Mali on several occasions in 2010 and 2011 pursuing fighters from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). This August, Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz stated that his country will not intervene militarily in Mali. Mauritania is not a member of ECOWAS. Last week, Abdel Aziz met with General Carter Ham, head of US AFRICOM, to discuss the potential for intervention in Mali, but few details of the meeting are publicly available.

Some constituencies inside Mauritania strongly oppose an external intervention. One such constituency is the segment of Islamists represented by the political party Tewassoul (“The National Rally for Reform and Development”; Arabic site here). Yesterday, the party released a statement against intervention in Mali (Arabic). The statement partly blames Abdel Aziz’s regime for the current crisis in Mali, and has several key planks, paraphrased here:

  • The party supports the territorial integrity of Mali.
  • The party calls on neighboring countries, the African Union, and the United Nations to support negotiations and a non-violent solution to the crisis.
  • The party warns of “disastrous and negative consequences for the region as a whole from any foreign intervention guided by Western countries on the basis of their agenda and their interests.”
  • The party opposes any Mauritanian support, military or logistical, for a military intervention in Mali.

Mauritanian Islamists are far from being the dominant political players in the country – in the last presidential elections, Tewassoul’s candidate Jamil Mansour placed fourth in the official results, with around 5% of the vote – yet they have at times acted as a significant pressure group, particularly with regard to foreign policy. Analysts have cited Islamists’ street demonstrations and political mobilization as a factor in prompting Mauritania’s decision to suspend relations with Israel in 2009. Mauritanian Islamists have been effective in articulating popular sentiments against forms of perceived neo-colonialism in Mauritania and the region.

Tewassoul’s statement, then, has significance for understanding how Islamists of different stripes are reacting to the situation in Mali and how the issue is playing out in Mauritanian domestic politics. I don’t want to overstate the influence Tewassoul has, especially over Abdel Aziz. But Tewassoul may have some success mobilizing around this cause.

Mali’s Islamist Coalition Responds to External Intervention Discussions

Plans for an external military intervention in war-torn Mali are gathering momentum. Mali’s interim government has agreed to allow the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to base a 3,000-strong force in Bamako. The European Union is “considering requests to support West African-led military intervention in Mali and to restructure the country’s beleaguered army.” France and the United States have urged the United Nations Security Council to approve ECOWAS’ plans, and France and the African Union have said they will support ECOWAS logistically. Even Algeria “may have to accept the deployment of West African troops in its crisis-hit neighbour Mali contrary to its traditional stance against foreign intervention and focus on internal security, analysts say.”

As Reuters points out, uncertainty about who really rules in Bamako – coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo, civilian President Dioncounda Traore, or Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra - could efforts to retake Mali’s Islamist-held north. But many powerful actors are pushing for a military campaign of some kind.

These developments have not gone unnoticed in the north. The Malian press has transcribed a phone interview with Oumar Ould Hamaha, a commander within the Islamist coalition that rules northern Mali. I have not been able to find an in-depth profile on Hamaha, but this comment on him from AFP is notable:

Malian national Omar Hamaha, one of the main Islamist commanders in the north, is a case study in the bridges between [Ansar al Din, Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa, the main players in the Islamist coalition].

He is known as the second-in-command to the AQIM boss in charge of Gao. But during the seizure of Timbuktu in April, he referred to himself as the chief-of-staff of Ansar Dine, and now says he holds the same position in MUJAO.

“Remember, we are all mujahedeen. Whether a fighter is from MUJAO, Ansar Dine or AQIM, it’s the same thing,” he told AFP.

“We have the same ambition, the application of sharia. Whenever there’s an attack on one of us, it’s an attack on everyone.”

Hamaha is frequently quoted as a spokesman for the coalition in local and international media (see here, for example), where his rhetoric often emphasizes the coalition’s embrace of violence in the service of its determination to impose shari’a across Mali. In the aftermath of the Malian army’s killing of sixteen Muslim preachers earlier this month, Hamaha expressed the Islamist coalition’s rejection of mediation efforts and its objective of capturing Bamako:

He warned that the Islamists would one day attack the south. ‘‘We will plant the black flag of the Islamists at Koulouba,’’ he said, naming the hill on which Mali’s presidential palace sits.

Hamaha reiterated these messages in his recent phone interview (French), in which he expresses defiance regarding the possibility of an external intervention. My translation:

I was contacted last Saturday by the Minister of Defense for discussions. I told him that we are open to dialogue if the government is ready to submit itself to the shari’a. Plainly speaking, if the authorities are ready to apply the sharia. I was surprised that the Minister of Defense spoke to me of secularism (laicite). That impedes all dialogue with them. We are jihadists…We are ready to take the lead and to defeat all armies by the sword, whether they be from ECOWAS or even NATO…Nothing will be able to stop our advance on Bamako and the rest of Mali because we have chosen to die for the religion.

More remarks from Hamaha here (French).

The statement leaves me wondering how seriously to take the threat of the Islamist coalition’s southern advance. The Islamists’ capture of the town of Douentza (map) on September 1 certainly raised some eyebrows, and their repeated references to a southern advance indicates that the threat is not just an offhand comment. On the other hand, advancing into southern areas could stretch the Islamists thin, exacerbate the political backlash they sometimes face, and hand them military defeats. Whatever happens, ECOWAS and other external forces can expect stiff resistance from the Islamist coalition, and external forces may even find themselves initially working not just to retake territory, but to repel new attacks.

France, Morocco, and Mauritania on Intervention in Northern Mali

(For more context, see my previous posts on intervention in Mali here and here.)

France reiterates its position:

“It is not for France to take the military initiative in Mali,” [Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian] told journalists during a visit to Lorient in northwest France.

France, he said, “wants it to be the African forces, in particular those of ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) and possibly the African Union, that take the initiative,” he said.

He said an African military intervention in northern Mali was “desirable and inevitable.”

“France will support it and, I hope, the European Union also.”

Morocco:

Morocco supports a political solution to the crisis in Mali but the regional community will have to consider “other options” if diplomacy fails, the foreign minister said in a newspaper interview.
The kingdom is encouraging its allies in the UN Security Council to find a political solution to the crisis in northern Mali, Youssef El Amrani told Le Matin in comments to be published on Tuesday.

Mauritania:

Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz on Monday ruled out sending troops to Mali, where the embattled government has lost control of the north to Al-Qaeda-linked militias.

“There will be no Mauritanian military intervention in Mali,” he said overnight at a local forum in the northern town of Atar marking the third anniversary of his rise to power.

“The problem there is very complex and we don’t have the solution,” he said, adding however that his country, which borders Mali, would take part in the international community’s efforts to restore peace.

Sahel-based journalist Hannah Armstrong calls Abdel Aziz’s words “doublespeak.” Mauritania has sent soldiers into northern Mali in the past in pursuit of fighters from Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM).

Two related items:

  1. For those who read Arabic, Magharebia reports on how insecurity along the Mauritanian-Malian border has hurt trade in the area.
  2. BBC Hausa reports on a recent meeting of Sahelian foreign ministers in Niger, where the ministers discussed the crisis in Mali. I have not found any other reports on this meeting, though.

Another Post on a Potential Foreign Intervention in Mali

Talk of foreign intervention in Mali continues. Leaders of nearby countries, especially but not only Niger, have expressed alarm about Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and its alliance with the Islamist group Ansar al Din, which now controls key areas in northern Mali. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), France, the United States, and others have talked (with varying degrees of enthusiasm) about military intervention in Mali for months. Over time the level of seriousness seems to be gradually increasing. Yesterday (French), President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire told a French newspaper, “Negotiations are continuing but, if they were not to succeed, we would be obligated to utilize force to clear northern Mali of these terrorist and Islamist groups.”

More significant still is the Malian military’s reported willingness to allow a foreign force into the country, a change from their previous stance.

Coup leader Capt. Amadou Sanogo had initially expressed opposition to accepting assistance from foreign troops, and Thursday’s announcement appeared to be a softening of that position.

[...]

[Military chief of staff Ibrahim] Dembele said Thursday that Malian officials would agree to “security assistance” in addition to help in taking back the troubled north.

“Before deployment of the foreign troops, there should be public awareness about the mission’s objective,” he said. “Once people understand, it will facilitate the presence of foreign troops.”

This week, the European Union also suggested a readiness to back an external force in Mali:

EU foreign ministers gathered in Brussels asked EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton to make “concrete proposals” on support for “the possible deployment of a well-prepared ECOWAS force in Mali, under a UN mandate and in conjunction with a government of national unity and the African Union.”

Washington, in the person of Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, has seemed fairly unenthusiastic about the idea of an intervention throughout the spring and summer. This week, however, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflicts Michael Sheehan spoke of a need to “accelerate” US efforts to foster political progress in southern Mali, deny Al Qaeda access to “ungoverned places,” and keep all options open in the face of a “looming threat.” More on Asst. Sec. Sheehan’s remarks here.

Commentators such as Todd Moss have argued compellingly that the crisis in northern Mali cannot be solved until the political situation is clarified in the south. That concern seemed present in Sheehan’s thinking as well. But as an ECOWAS-imposed July 31 deadline for the formation of a national unity government in Mali approaches, southern Mali politics appear bitter and confused. This state of affairs leaves many wondering where political resolution will come from.

In short, then, it seems there is increasing international talk of and enthusiasm for an intervention, but limited progress (at least in public) on the political and logistical conditions that would make such an intervention feasible. Various players favor an ECOWAS-led, European- (and American-?) backed force, but it is not clear how such a force would obtain sufficient troops or what its goals and strategies would be.

An Armed Intervention in Northern Mali?

In January, the Tuareg-led National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad (MNLA) launched a rebellion in northern Mali (aka “the Azawad”). Following a March 22 coup against the government in southern Mali, rebels secured de facto independence for the north. But the MNLA fell out with Ansar al Din (Arabic: “Defenders of the Faith”), a group that wants to impose shari’a across Mali. Ansar al Din has links to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and the AQIM offshoot the Movement for Unity/Tawhid and Jihad in West Africa (MUJWA). The Islamist coalition has outmaneuvered the MNLA politically and, recently, militarily, and now claims control of the key northern cities Gao, Timbuktu, and Kidal.

Throughout the spring and summer, there has been talk of an armed intervention in northern Mali by outside powers to defeat the rebels and address the perceived threat from the Islamist coalition. Potential forces for such an intervention might come from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), France, or (less likely) the United States. The Malian government claims it has 4,000 troops ready to head north. But the government, currently torn by uncertainty over who rules (soldiers or the civilians appointed as interim caretakers) and lacking administrative and military capacity, does not appear able to retake the north on its own. Indeed, ECOWAS is “losing patience” with the Malian government and recently threatened to withdraw recognition of the government if Mali cannot assemble a government of “national unity” by July 31. With such problems in southern Mali, what might outside powers do in northern Mali?

Several times, ECOWAS has floated the idea of activating a force of some 3,000 troops and sending them to Mali to help restore order in the south, to begin reconquering the north, or both. Mali’s neighbor Niger has been particularly vocal in expressing alarm about the dangers of Islamic radicalism and terrorism in northern Mali. ECOWAS has sought – but so far not obtained – United Nations approval for such an intervention. The UN, however, “expresse[d] its readiness to further examine the request of ECOWAS once additional information has been provided regarding the objectives, means and modalities of the envisaged deployment.” Even if ECOWAS secures UN approval, however, major questions remain, starting with doubts about whether a force of 3,000 could retake the north (the African Union Mission in Somalia, just for comparison’s sake, had a force of approximately 10,000 for quite some time, and received authorization this year to increase its force to over 17,000). One Malian source (French) reports that ECOWAS has sent a “technical evaluation mission” to Bamako to “do the groundwork” for an intervention.

What of France? Mali’s former colonial ruler has been supportive of ECOWAS plans for intervention. Just yesterday, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said, “In the north, at one moment or another there will probably be the use of force,” adding, in Reuters’ words, “that intervention would be African-led but supported by international forces.” France and the UN, in other words, seem to want ECOWAS to provide more details and plan more thoroughly before they will back an intervention.

Washington’s stance, as expressed through statements by Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson, has partly resembled France’s but has been more cautious in tone. In May, Carson told reporters that ECOWAS’ “mission and role” in Mali “must be defined before we make any kind of commitment.” Remarks by Carson in late June sounded even less enthusiastic: “We think an ECOWAS mission to militarily retake the north is ill-advised and not feasible.” The US has small numbers of soldiers on “standby” in Mali, a presence that has generated commentary and questions in the press recently. Nevertheless, it seems unlikely at present that the US would openly provide large numbers of troops for an armed intervention in northern Mali.

There are other countries who might intervene in different ways in northern Mali, particularly Mauritania (whose troops pursued AQIM fighters into northern Mali several times in 2010 and 2011) and Algeria, several of whose diplomats were kidnapped by MUJWA in April (three of the diplomats were freed yesterday). The UK, which has said that intervention in Mali would be a “last resort,” indicated that Algeria would be a part of any such operation. Neither Mauritania nor Algeria belongs to ECOWAS.

On a final note, I recommend reading IRIN‘s “Mali: Compromise or Force in North?”

What do you think? Do you expect an intervention to take place? If so, who do you think will participate?

Niger: President Issoufou, in Europe, Stresses Regional Security and Economic Possibility

Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou traveled to France and the UK this week. He has continued to voice concerns about the rebellion in neighboring Mali and to urge an international intervention. Issoufou made headlines last week for claiming that Afghans and Pakistanis are present in northern Mali, training terrorists (this claim has circulated before). Issoufou said, “I see the necessity for a U.N. Security Council resolution on the Mali situation to allow the use of force to restore integrity of Mali’s territory. I am optimistic because Western powers are aware of the danger that threatens them in the Sahel.”

Issoufou has reiterated these themes in Europe this week. European leaders certainly seem to take the problems in Mali seriously, although they are stating their preference for regional powers to take the lead. French President Francois Hollande, after meeting with Issoufou, told journalists, “This threat exists, it’s for the Africans to avert it, for them to decide. [The Economic Community of West African States] is at once the judicial instrument for that and the possible military instrument…It’s for the Africans to go to the Security Council, we will back the resolution that will be put forward by ECOWAS.” Niger, from what I can tell, is the most hawkish member of ECOWAS when it comes to the Malian crisis.

In London, Issoufou touted Niger’s economic growth, promoting the country as an investment destination, noting its uranium and oil resources. The audio of his speech at Chatham House (with simultaneous translation) is here.

Readers may also be interested in this interview Issoufou did with Al Jazeera a few weeks ago, where he talks about Mali and Libya.

American, EU, French Statements on Senegalese Elections/Candidacy of President Abdoulaye Wade

On Friday, Senegal’s constitutional court ruled that incumbent President Abdoulaye Wade, who will soon complete his second term, is eligible to run in the country’s February 26 presidential elections. The announcement, though expected, came in the context of long-standing tensions between Wade and large segments of the country’s urban youth, who want the president to step down. On Friday youth rioted in Dakar, the capital.

Wade’s candidacy has also drawn negative reactions from abroad, notably from Washington. Yesterday, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns spoke to journalists in Addis Ababa, and cast doubt on the wisdom of Wade’s current path:

We are concerned that the decision by President Wade to seek a third term … could jeopardise the decades-long record that Senegal has built up on the continent for democracy, democratic development and political stability…We hope very much that the political process will be a peaceful one and it will allow for the free active participation of all Senegalese.

Burns’ comments were matched by those of Victoria Nuland, a State Department spokeswoman, at a press briefing yesterday:

QUESTION: Do you have any reaction about the Senegal situation, about Wade running for a third bid for presidential?

MS. NULAND: Well, as you know, the Senegalese constitutional court has now confirmed the validity of 14 candidates running for president, including President Wade. Our own view, while we respect the process, the political and legal process in Senegal, the fact that he’s now been cleared to run, our message to him remains the same: that the statesmanly-like thing to do would be to cede to the next generation, and we think that would be better.

And with regard to the reference to Museveni last week, Matt, I am reliably told that we did also suggest to him that he allow the next generation to –

QUESTION: Yes. And he didn’t, and now he’s your best friend.

MS. NULAND: Well, we work –

QUESTION: So what’s wrong with – now what’s wrong with it in Senegal?

MS. NULAND: We work with the government the people elect. But again, our view is that Senegalese democracy is strong enough to move to the next generation.

European countries’ statements have not been as strong as Washington’s, but it is clear that the European Union and former colonial power France are also concerned about the situation. The former has questioned the constitutional court’s decision to bar singer Youssou N’dour from running in the elections:

Thijs Berman, the head of the EU election observer mission, urged the council, which meets on Sunday to hear appeals, to release the reasons for its decisions, both for candidates whose bids have been accepted and for those who have been rejected.

“A candidate such as Youssou N’Dour, who had thousands of signatures backing his bid rejected, should have access to the files in order to look closely at why they were rejected, that is important,” Berman said, speaking on French public radio RFI.

“For now we have the decisions but we don’t have the motivations. I think that not only each of the candidates but also every citizen of Senegal has a right to know,” Berman said. “It is only by understanding the reasons of the Constitutional Council that the decision could be accepted.”

France, for its part (see statement in French here), has so far merely stated that it is following the process closely and that it hopes “all opinions, in their diversity, can be expressed on the occasion of this presidential election.” The French government also affirmed its commitment to democratic principles, including the riot of peaceful assembly.

Washington, Brussels, and Paris are obviously worried about what the next month, and the outcome of the elections themselves, will bring for Senegal.

On a final note, the exchange between Ms. Nuland and the journalist above – the reference to Museveni in particular – is interesting, although the conversation did not play out in full. What do you think? Does the example of Museveni give Wade comfort that even if foreign powers wish he would step aside, they will continue to work with him even if he does not?

Malian Elections and French Educations

If one looks at the biographies of major candidates in Mali’s upcoming presidential elections (first round April 29), a simple pattern emerges: they all studied in France.

  • Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, former prime minister and former president of the National Assembly, as well as runner-up in the 2007 presidential elections, attended secondary school and university in France, specializing in history, political science, and international relations.
  • Soumaila Cisse, a former cabinet minister and runner-up in the 2002 presidential elections, studied software engineering in Montpelier.
  • Dioncounda Traore, current president of the National Assembly, attended university in Nice as well as universities in the Soviet Union and Algeria.
  • Mobidbo Sidibe (.pdf), former prime minister, has a doctorate in criminology from Aix-en-Provence.

There are other candidates, but it is fairly likely that Mali’s next president will be one of these men, and therefore also fairly likely that Mali’s next president will be French-educated. (For what it is worth, former President Alpha Konare studied not in France but in Poland, while outgoing President Amadou Toumani Toure completed military training courses in the Soviet Union and France).

I would not go so far as to say that this trend represents a pernicious form of neo-colonialism, but I do think it’s notable that the formation of super-elites in Mali (and elsewhere in Francophone Africa) remains so closely tied to the former metropole.