Family Networks and Mali’s Key Governing Institutions

This post caught my eye the other day. It says, “Issiaka Sidibé, father-in-law of President IBK [Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta], named president of the High Court of Justice.”

Here is a response from another Malian observer, reading, “He was elected in the electoral district of Koulikoro, elected by his colleagues as president of the High Court of Justice of Mali, hence the word nomination is misleading. ‘Father-in-law of IBK,’ this connection is an invention coming from you.”

So there’s a lot to sort through here, with consequences for how to understand the workings of Mali’s institutions at the highest levels.

Issiaka Sidibé served as president of Mali’s National Assembly from 2014 to 2020, stepping down after the recent legislative elections in March/April of this year. He is the father-in-law not of President Keïta but of Keïta’s son Karim, who also serves as a deputy in parliament – in 2013, several months after his father was elected president, Karim won a legislative seat representing the capital Bamako’s Commune II). The younger Keïta was re-elected in this year’s vote. Within the National Assembly, he also holds a prominent post as President of the Defense, Security, and Civilian Protection Commission.

Karim Keïta (see one biography of him here, and a discussion of his inner circle here, both in French) reportedly has substantial influence over his father’s picks for top personnel – although this question takes us back to the debate between the two Malian commentators cited above. One could have the same debate about the new president of the National Assembly, Moussa Timbiné (who represents Bamako’s Commune V) – but various accounts say confidently that the two Keïtas, and especially Karim, had a strong hand in Timbiné’s selection. Sidibé, Karim Keïta, and Timbiné all belong to President Keïta’s Rally for Mali (French acronym RPM) party.

Turning to the High Court of Justice (French), this body is composed of nine members of the National Assembly, and is the body which judges the President of the Republic and cabinet ministers if they face charges of treason or other crimes. The High Court has nine members elected from among the National Assembly’s deputies, and its slate changes with each new Assembly. The nine new members (French) for the Sixth Assembly, and their party affiliations, are:

  1. Sina Oumar Traoré, MPM-UDD
  2. Kadidia Sangaré, MRD
  3. Soungalo Togola, Adema
  4. Mamadou Salif Diallo, Adema
  5. Abdoul Kadri Ibrahim Diallo, VRD
  6. Issiaka Sidibé, RPM
  7. Cheickna Coulibaly, RPM
  8. Mohamed Ould Mataly, RPM (note: he is under sanctions from the United Nations Security Council)
  9. Maïmouna Ouloguem, BENSO

As president of the Court, Sidibé replaces Abdrahamane Niang, another reported (French) close associate of President Keïta.

What does all this mean? On the one hand, it is not unusual around the world to see multiple members of a family enter politics and win high office – certainly the United States has no shortage of examples of that. But I have to say, I’m less than enthusiastic about political dynasties in my own country. And it makes sense that the Keïtas would want an ally of theirs as president of the National Assembly – what is the point, after all, of having a political party if not to try to control the executive and legislative branches simultaneously? But at what point does the influence of a single parliamentary deputy, based on family connections, become anti-democratic? At what point does a political network cross the line from being a clique of powerful individuals (which will invariably operate in any presidential administration) to being a clique that bends the key institutions of the state to its own interests? Moreover, having the president’s son’s father-in-law presiding over the body that would judge the president were he to be accused of a crime does, to say the least, set up a clear and worrying conflict of interest.

1 thought on “Family Networks and Mali’s Key Governing Institutions

  1. Pingback: Mali: A New Slate of Judges for the Constitutional Court | Sahel Blog

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