In Mali, the military tries to extinguish all dissent by banning political parties

Already largely abused since the military came to power in 2020, democracy is now well and truly buried in Mali

In Mali, the military tries to extinguish all dissent by banning political parties

Already largely abused since the military came to power in 2020, democracy is now well and truly buried in Mali. After dissolving several civil society organizations and political groups deemed protesting in recent months, the head of the junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, in power since 2021, suspended Wednesday April 10 “until further notice, for reasons of public order, political parties and political activities of associations", according to the decree taken by the Council of Ministers.

In order to definitively silence the political class, the High Authority of Communication “invited all media to stop all broadcasting and publication of party activities and political activities of associations” in a press release released on Thursday April 11. The body responsible for regulating the audiovisual landscape in Mali was already behind the suspension of broadcasting of several media, including RFI and France 24 in April 2022 and France 2 in February 2024.

“The subversive actions of political parties and their allies are only increasing,” explained Colonel Abdoulaye Maïga, spokesperson for the transitional government in Bamako. Before invoking the need not to maintain “cacophony and confusion” in the run-up to the inter-Malian national dialogue, a consultation framework aimed at restoring peace in a country devastated by insecurity for twelve years, launched at the end of December by Colonel Goïta. Its program was validated at the end of March, but no date has yet been set for its holding. “We cannot accept that political forces […] take such a saving initiative hostage,” insisted Abdoulaye Maïga.

Feverness of the military in power

At the same time, Colonel Goïta announced the “extension of the security perimeter around the military airfield and the main powder magazine” of Kati. The overprotection of this garrison town located on the outskirts of Bamako and which houses the heart of Malian power reflects the feverishness of the military in power.

In recent weeks, while attacks by jihadist groups have not diminished and a serious energy crisis in the city is depriving Malians of electricity for nearly eighteen hours a day, several protesting voices have been heard. Unusually, a coalition called The February 20 Appeal took the floor on March 26 – the date the junta had promised to hand over power to elected civilians – to call for “civil disobedience.” Alongside the Synergy of Action for Mali, another grouping of political and civil organizations opposed to the putschists, L’Appel du February 20 announced that it would no longer recognize the authority of the military. “The authorities are taking democracy hostage and have betrayed all their commitments, because they think they can do anything. We are no longer going to let them do this,” warned Cheick Mohamed Chérif Koné, the general coordinator of the opposition movement.

Gagged by the junta since its installation in power following the coups of August 2020 and May 2021, the opposition and civil society broke their silence on March 31 by denouncing the “legal and institutional vacuum” in which finds the Malian transition process, while the putschists had initially promised to withdraw in November 2022. In their joint declaration, they demanded from the authorities a “rapid and inclusive consultation” for the holding of the presidential election “as soon as possible ". “Sterile discussions,” retorted Colonel Maïga.

Since the start of the year, the coup authorities have increased the number of dissolutions of protest parties and associations. The Coordination of Movements, Associations and Sympathizers of Imam Mahmoud Dicko, whose influence contributed to the overthrow of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August 2020, was dissolved on March 6. It was accused by the putschists of having transformed into a “political body of destabilization” representing a “threat to public security”.

On March 13, it was the turn of the Association of Pupils and Students of Mali, a powerful organization at the forefront of major political protests over the past thirty years, to be dissolved by the government, accused of being responsible for violence and clashes in schools. Two opposition political parties, Oumar Mariko's African Solidarity for Democracy and Independence and Ismaël Sacko's African Social Democratic Party, are also currently subject to legal proceedings initiated by the authorities with a view to suppressing them. dissolve, due to the comments of their leaders perceived as too critical of the regime.

“We’re all at an impasse.”

A symbol of the junta's reluctance to organize, as it has promised on several occasions, credible elections within a reasonable time, the Observatory for Elections and Good Governance, responsible for ensuring that elections are carried out properly. polls, was also dissolved at the end of December 2023.

Faced with such muzzling, opponents recognize that they have little room for maneuver. “We are all at an impasse,” recognizes a former advisor to Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta. According to him, “the regime applied a military strategy on the political scene: imprisoning some of its adversaries, threatening them or preventing them from carrying out their activities so that all opponents would close down and fear demonstrating in the streets.”

On Thursday, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights responded by saying it was “deeply concerned” and calling for the decree banning political parties to be “immediately repealed.” The work of this body on alleged abuses by Malian soldiers in the name of the fight against terrorist groups had been at the center of tensions between the junta and the UN mission in Mali (Minusma). Subjected to too much pressure, it decided to leave the country in 2023, leaving the Malian military and their Russian allies from the Wagner group to work behind closed doors.