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.

14 thoughts on “Malian Elections and French Educations

  1. But how old are these men on average? Their age will help us determine whether this is a leading indicator or a lagging indicator. If these men are in their early forties, then it means that the links are alive and well. If they are significantly older, then it merely signifies that the old guard are alive and well.

    • Going by Wikipedia (which isn’t the most reliable but can probably used for this) Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is about 66.
      Soumaila Cisse is 62.
      Dioncounda Traore is 69.
      Mobidbo Sidibe (I’m guessing since I can’t read French) is 59.

      On it’s own all it signifies is that all of the major candidates studied in France. However we should remember that they probably studied there in their 20s, which means that France was still appealing to them in the 1960s and 1970s. A more conclusive search would look at the average age of legislators and other politicians, where the children of rich families go and where the rising stars of Mali politics graduate from.

      • Thanks. So it is a lagging indicator.

        The new generation could be more American trained or even trained in the Middle East.

  2. Wondering if this election is going to happen, given the current issue of separatism between Azawad and the rest of the country. The country is in the middle of a civil war !

  3. This blog doesn’t seem to have much interest in what is going on in Northern Nigeria.

    Are we to assume that Northern Nigeria isn’t part of the Sahel or that Kano (an important center of learning and the major city of the Hausa people) isn’t really important at all?

    • Please don’t think I’m not following very closely what’s going on in Northern Nigeria. I hope to write about it soon.

    • While Nigeria, Boko Haram and the oil are important, focusing primarily on those issues would take away from looking at the region in general.

  4. When I grew up we thought of leaders like Senghor as liberators and nationalists….now I see them more as tailored to preserve French influence in the region.
    More Frenchitude than Negritude.
    What’s the best uptodate literature covering French post colonial power strategies in francophone Africa?
    thx!!

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  6. You need to take a serious look at Yeah Samaké . His work in Ouéléssébougou as mayor has been nothing short of miraculous. If his success in that region can be replicated, the country has a real hope of progressing and becoming a united people. The people of Mali should unite behind a truly dedicated and selfless civil servant with a history of success within the Mali culture.
    He is young, excited, honest ,successful, a true leader among men.His success is unmatched by the alternatives spoken of in the article. He will bring the new fresh , honest approach to Mali politics that is so desperately needed. Given his support of decentralized government he could appeal to the rebels and find a common middle ground to work with. He can appeal to all constituencies in the country except of course those that are self serving and even then they may see the good of the whole he would bring the country.

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