In Mali, and particularly in the capital Bamako, the 5 June Movement – Rally of Patriotic Forces (M5-RFP) is driving a flurry of political negotiations, proposals, and counter-proposals. I’ve gone into the composition of the movement and covered its first two mass demonstrations here and here, and I wrote an overview for the Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI) – so I won’t rehash the context here, but will simply round up some of the latest developments.
- On 30 June or 1 July (reports vary), the M5-RFP released a memorandum that appears to modify its core demand – namely that Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) resign. The memorandum makes a number of sweeping demands, including the dissolution of the National Assembly and its replacement by “a transitional legislative mechanism”; and the formation of a transitional government under a prime minister selected by the M5-RFP, with the president’s powers effectively reduced to nothing. Yet Cheick Oumar Sissoko, leader of one of the three main blocs of the M5-RFP (a civil society coalition called Espoir Mali Koura or “Hope for a New Mali”), has said the memorandum does not reflect his own point of view – he still wants IBK to go. Meanwhile I have been thinking about a post from Tchoussal N’Gourgou saying that “the truth is that Mahmoud Dicko [the leading M5-RFP organizer] is condemned to follow the framework dictated by [the Economic Community of West Africa States].” In other words, with the international community weighing in to subtly suggest that it does not want IBK’s resignation and that it does want a negotiated outcome, the M5-RFP and Dicko are forced to accept some outcome less than what they originally demanded.
- Some of IBK’s supporters have, unsurprisingly, denounced the memorandum, calling it antidemocratic and unconstitutional. They may have a point. Ironically, the Malian Constitution of 1992 appears to me (not a constitutional constitutional scholar!) to implicitly allow for a president to resign, but only envisions temporary handoffs of power from the president to the prime minister (see Article 36) or the delegation of “certain powers” from the president to the prime minister (Article 51). Any permanent incapacity on the president’s part triggers a new election and I don’t think the constitution envisions a scenario where the president hands off all of his/her powers permanently. Meanwhile, the president can dissolve the National Assembly (Article 42), but that triggers new legislative elections and I am not sure how the demand to create a “transitional legislative mechanism” can be squared with Article 42. But obviously that’s all for Malian lawyers and politicians to work out, should it come to that. And in fairness, IBK slid into an extra-constitutional zone vis-a-vis the National Assembly by allowing deputies to remain in office longer than five years (Article 61). So the Constitution is not the ultimate guide to what will/can happen in Malian politics (or elsewhere!).
- On 2 July, the captivity of opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé (kidnapped, presumably by jihadists, in the Timbuktu Region on 25 March) passed the 100 day mark. There is a rhetorical competition underway between the president’s allies and the M5-RFP to take ownership of the issue – the M5-RFP cites Cissé’s kidnapping as one of many tragedies amid the crisis they are responding to, while the president’s allies accuse the M5-RFP of taking advantage of the tragedy for political gain.
- On 4 July, IBK held three meetings in an effort to tamp down tensions: one with Imam Mahmoud Dicko, the foremost leader of the M5-RFP; one with the parties of the presidential majority in the National Assembly; and one with the “founding families” of Bamako. According to Dicko, the president offered him some kind of ministerial role or “privileges” in the yet-to-be-formed “government of change” that IBK announced in a 14 June address; Dicko refused. IBK reportedly wants a “government of national unity.”
- On 5 July, IBK met with M5-RFP representatives (see the presidency’s readout here). The meeting did not achieve a breakthrough, and in fact led the M5-RFP to decry what it sees as IBK’s obstinacy and to renew its call for him to resign (see the M5-RFP communiqué here).
- Direct communication between IBK and the M5-RFP leaders is not the only channel of negotiation. Jeune Afrique published an article on 23 June about the “emissaries” of IBK during the crisis, citing names such as ex-Foreign Affairs Minister Tiebilé Dramé, former President Moussa Traoré, and current President of the High Islamic Council Ousmane Madani Haïdara.
- The role of religious leaders in the M5-RFP – not just Dicko, but also the Chérif of Nioro du Sahel – continues to generate commentary and controversy. At The Conversation, Boubacar Haidara and Lamine Savane analyze Dicko’s role in the protests; at Journal du Mali (h/t Adam Sandor), there is an analysis of the Chérif’s role. Meanwhile, one cleric belonging to the High Islamic Council, Mohamed Moufa Haïdara, has formed what appears to be a pro-IBK platform explicitly opposed to “mixing politics with religion.”
The next mass rally is scheduled for 10 July, this Friday.