MALI : MOUSSA MARA, A STATESMAN
Interview: Moussa Mara, former Prime Minister of Mali
Experience of power, the strength of youth, the will to turn Mali around, this is what Moussa Mara, the former Prime Minister of Mali under Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and President of the Yéléma (Change) party, embodies. In this unprecedented period, Moussa Mara takes stock with 54 STATES of the political transition that Mali is going through. He gives us his projections for the future; a future in which he intends to play his part. Let's meet!
54 STATES: What led Mali to this transitional situation?
Moussa Mara: On August 18, President IBK announced his resignation and the dissolution of Parliament and his government. This vacuum suddenly left the need to build an institutional order that would bring together not only the existing living forces but also the military that led to the departure of President IBK. In order to lead the country in these special times, a transition period began - with a president, a vice-president, a government - framed by a transition charter that serves as a constitution in addition to the 1992 one.
54 STATES: Is the ex-president IBK the symbol of a political class that has failed to bring Malians together?
Moussa Mara : Ah yes, I think so. Not only that failed to bring Malians together, but above all that failed to meet their expectations. President IBK was elected in 2013 and enjoyed extremely strong popular support. Never before has a president been elected under such favorable conditions. A strong popular will was expressed so that he could lead the country in these difficult times. Unfortunately, the achievements have not lived up to the promises made and the expectations raised. A climate of strong popular mistrust has finally been established. The economic crisis, the social crisis, the intervention of the Constitutional Court in the results of the legislative elections formed an explosive cocktail that eventually carried the president away.
54 STATES: Is the choice of the President, former Colonel Bah N'daw, the Vice President and head of the military junta Assimi Goïta and the Transitional Prime Minister, Moctar Ouane, neutral enough, in your opinion, to lead this 18-month transition?
Moussa Mara : Bah N'daw is a former military man whose righteousness and honesty I know. He was my Minister of Defense in 2014 when I was Prime Minister. During the short period we worked together, he lived up to expectations in defending the interests of our country. Today, we have no reason to doubt his desire to lead the process to a successful conclusion. In his inaugural speech, he expressed his willingness to lead our country towards the best possible auspices, which he greatly appreciated.
His deputy, Colonel Assimi Goïta, heads the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) at the initiative of the August 18 action. It is a guarantee of the presence of the armed and security forces alongside the transition.
Prime Minister Moctar Ouane rounds out the profile of the other two since he is a career diplomat. His experience as ambassador, adviser to heads of state, Minister of Foreign Affairs will be useful in the management of external relations.
The transition period is an eventful and exceptional period. Many partners are reluctant to work with Mali under these conditions. Their knowledge of the administration and the country, combined with their ability to smooth things over and build consensus, will temper the military rigor of the other two.
I think this casting can help us. But we, as a political force, as a civil society, must play our part so that the transition is stable, so that it can tackle the most important issues in order to allow the country to live a constitutional future.
54 STATES: The junta gave new pledges to the West African organization. The transitional charter has been made public and the prerogatives of the transitional vice president, Colonel Assimi Goïta, leader of the August 18 putschists, are limited. Do you think they did the right thing?
Moussa Mara: There is still the small unknown of the dissolution of the junta: the CNSP must be dissolved as soon as the transitional authorities are established. This issue should be resolved in the coming days.
I think that ECOWAS must always continue to accompany Mali. And behind ECOWAS, the entire international community because this period is complicated. We are going through an economic crisis. At the moment, there is a lot of talk about politics; the economy is hardly addressed, but the means are limited.
54 STATES: The means for economic recovery?
Moussa Mara : The economic crisis is having a serious impact on our public finances. I remember that the previous IBK government intended to review the 2020 budget before the Assembly. The transitional government will also have to tackle this task. For the past three months, the socio-political crisis has been disrupting economic circuits. Prospects are not necessarily good for the cotton sector, which is the backbone of rural life in our country. Therefore, the economic tomorrows will not be positive.
54 STATES: And there is also at the moment a problem around the elections related to the Patronage.
Moussa Mara: Yes, you are right. This problem was added to all of this last week. We now have two offices of the National Council of Employers of Mali (CNPM) to deal with: the one led by Diadié Sankaré and his team, who have been claiming to have been elected for a week; the one led by the outgoing president, Mamdou Sinsy Coulibaly, who claims that there have been no elections and is calling for new ones. Here too, we are entering a whirlwind that will not spare the business world. The clouds are gathering over our heads. In addition to the involvement of Malians, we need the solicitude of the international community.
54 STATES: Moussa Mara, you were not in favor of the resignation, according to the Uns and Coup d'état of the junta according to others, of former President IBK? Why not? And why did you never join the M5?
Moussa Mara: Your two questions are one and the same. It is because we were not in favor of the resignation of IBK that we did not join the M5. We were not in favor of the resignation of IBK because, simply, we are Republicans. We were aware, we were in opposition, even in radical opposition to the National Assembly with my party Yéléma, le changement. We were 3 deputies of change and we were fighting against all the negative projects of the government. And I did not hesitate to publish in the press, to communicate against the governance of President IBK. In 2018, I fought body and soul so that IBK would not be re-elected, but he was re-elected.
We believe that if someone is given a 5-year term, he should serve his 5-year term, that is democracy. If we always demand the resignation of the authorities we elect, we risk a period of endless instability. That is why we did not want the president to resign and that is why we did not join the M5, although we shared most of his concerns about bad governance, the morose situation in the country, the rampant insecurity and other areas where there was a clear failure of President IBK.
54 STATES: You talk about democracy, I have to ask you about democracy in crisis in West Africa. What do you think of the candidacies for a third term of office of the president of Guinea and Côte d'Ivoire who, instead of being inspired by their Senegalese, Ghanaian and even Sierra Leonean neighbors, seem to imitate more Cameroon or Congo-Brazzaville?
Moussa Mara: I am not in the habit of commenting on the realities of other countries. I believe that countries have their own reality. This being the case, the alternation for me is consubstantial with democracy.
Alternation, for me, is consubstantial with democracy
I am not only advocating for term limits for presidents. I am also militating for a limitation of the mandate of deputies, mayors, those at the head of political parties, at the head of trade unions so that our societies are societies of alternation. I believe that it is under these conditions that alternation will be imposed from the bottom up in our country and that it will become unthinkable that a president, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow, can hope to serve three terms, or even more. Here in Mali, thanks be to God, presidents have served a maximum of two terms, some even see their terms shortened, as we see with IBK. We are not there yet, but it would be desirable that we all evolve together within this framework and that Cedeao why not, tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, include in its texts, support for good governance, democracy and the fact that there is alternation and that mandates are limited.
The President of Guinea Bissau, Umaro Sissoco Embalo also expressed himself during the last meeting of ECOWAS.
I think he is right and that he prefigures this new generation of Heads of State. He is not yet 50 years old, as is the case of George Weah in Liberia or Malabio in Sierra Leone.
It's good that in Africa there is democratic breathing space
It is good that in Africa there is democratic breathing. That we have younger and younger Heads of State because the populations are very young. And without alternation, it remains difficult.
54 STATES: You are a statesman, what is your vision? What is needed to secure Mali and the Sahel zone?
Moussa Mara: I think that first of all we need to have a reassuring leadership. That is to say, a leadership that is exemplary in its approach to power. Honest before coming to power, with irrefutable proof of honesty. And once in power, honest and transparent. Because, more than anything else, the gulf that today separates leaders from the people is perhaps the most serious threat to our country and to our countries in general.
Trust must be restored; once trust is restored, we can, together with the people, project ourselves together. Without trust, we will project ourselves alone and we will go nowhere.
This is really our strong ambition. In all my political endeavors, I have been proclaiming the need to restore trust.
The Malian population must have a new faith in the future
The Malian people must have new faith in the future and say to themselves: "Ah, it is with this type of leader that we will be able to travel a bit of the road together". After that, we need a vision.
54 STATES: You speak of vision. After this period of transition and return to normal constitutional life, do you plan to participate in the electoral competitions to become President of the Republic of Mali?
Moussa Mara: Inchallah and we will fight for that.
54 STATES: A question of international politics, does France still have a place in Mali?
Moussa Mara : France has its place in Mali just like other countries.
54 STATES: After so many years of insecurity, after a Barkhane plan, a Serval plan?
Moussa Mara: France plays an important role. The Barkhane force today, Serval before, plays an important role, but armed force is often not enough to confront terrorism, which feeds on poverty and injustice, which feeds on all that is bad functioning of the state on a daily basis, and which makes young people join the ranks of terrorists every day. You can kill 10, 20, but you will have 200 the next day. Other types of actions are needed. You need armed force, of course, but you also need a state that occupies the ground, a state that dispenses justice fairly, that provides water, electricity, education, health services under fair and accessible conditions. I think that this is also what restores trust with the population and will project us further into the future.
54 STATES: Restoring confidence also to donors.
54 STATES: Health, education, employment, security, justice. "No sector is spared; we must not bury our heads in the sand. Citizens and economic operators pay bribes because they are forced to; they often have no choice. This shows that the system is infested with corruption, and citizens have become accustomed to it. "said Moumouni Guindo, president of the Central Office for Combating Illicit Enrichment. In your opinion, how to restore donor confidence, ensure good governance and more political transparency.
Moussa Mara: He is absolutely right. Especially since he has experienced the reality in our country. He was previously a magistrate, an auditor, and today he is in charge of the Central Office for the Fight against Illicit Enrichment. We share his diagnosis.
For me, solutions require leaders, top leaders themselves, beyond reproach, totally white
For me, solutions require leaders, top leaders themselves, beyond reproach, totally white. Then, systems that combine new technologies, simplification of administration and efficiency of justice. But also, support for whistleblowers.
We can't get evidence against the corrupt and the corrupters, because of course they are always one step ahead of the law. Let's make sure that there are always actors who are motivated enough to be on the right side, to denounce them and to bring us evidence.
By protecting and supporting whistleblowers, I think we will be doing useful work. This is part of the reforms to be made to our judicial system.
54 STATES: Moussa Mara, you in power tomorrow, you will bring this government transparency, no more corruption?
Moussa Mara: I was first mayor, deputy, minister, prime minister; all that at 45 years old. Wherever I have been, I have distinguished myself by the transparency I have shown and by the fight against corruption with important results. I therefore have sufficient legitimacy to tell you that at higher levels of responsibility, I will make the fight against corruption a reality, carried out effectively.