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.