Mali Between 1977-1990

By | June 6, 2022

The death in prison of Mali Keita, in 1977, was the cause of demonstrations against the military regime of Mali Traoré, which was followed by fractures within the junta and the armed forces, with arrests and convictions. These disagreements provoked coup attempts and a situation of instability that lasted until 1980. In May 1978 several civilians were incorporated into the government, and this was accompanied by a cautious liberalization with the release of political prisoners. In March 1979 a constituent congress of the single party, Union Démocratique du Peuple Malien (UDPM) launched a program of national government with military and civilians.

The presidential and legislative elections held in June 1979 (Traoré and the official list boasted 99% of the votes), however, saw the exclusion from the electoral context of many old followers of Keita, with a series of protests for fraud and demonstrations among students . Other serious incidents broke out in 1980 following the death in captivity of Abdou Camara, the leader of the student union, dissolved after the refusal to join the UDPM. The consequence was the closure of all educational institutions and a harsh repression of striking teachers and students, which then ended in a presidential pardon in 1981. Traoré tried to cope with the discontent expressed by the more cultured groups with a policy of dialogue through the UDPM and its greater involvement in the top government.

According to Homosociety, the serious economic situation induced the regime to undertake a liberalization policy, passing from public to private management of the vast state sector and especially of the marketing system of cereal production. These measures, encouraged by the Western partners, however proceeded extremely slowly, and the terrible drought of 1983-84 forced Mali to desperate dependence on emergency aid from abroad.

In December 1985, the longstanding territorial dispute with Burkina Faso over the Aghacer strip degenerated into a six-day war. After an agreed ceasefire, full reconciliation between the two countries took place in February 1986, and a settlement by the International Court of Justice in The Hague established a partition of the disputed area, with the agreement of the two parties.

In 1985 Traoré was re-elected to the presidency (98% of the votes) and gradually renounced some of the powers of government centralized in his person: between 1986 and 1988 the role of prime minister, vacant since 1971, was attributed to Mamadou Dembélé (the function was then abolished again), while the defense was entrusted to gen. Sékou Ly. Following an extraordinary congress of the UDPM, in 1987, a campaign of moralization of political life (adoption of a national orientation charter) was launched, with nine death sentences of corrupt officials, with the aim of reviving an image of the regime now decidedly contested in urban environments.

But popular discontent did not abate: large student demonstrations against the regime took place in March 1988, coinciding with the visit of the president of federal Germany. Disagreements within the regime persisted over the privatization policy of the public sector and the measures imposed by the International Monetary Fund. In June 1988, general elections were held, always with UDPM lists, but with three candidates running for each seat, and, for further proof of liberalization, towards the end of the year a notorious prison was closed and several political prisoners released.

Between 1989 and 1990 a strong opposition movement took shape, which, faced with the government’s unwillingness to initiate any democratic reform, responded between 22 and 24 March 1991 with a series of demonstrations, which were severely repressed (more of a hundred dead and a thousand wounded). On March 26, a group of military personnel, led by AT Touré, carried out a coup d’état and gave birth to a National Reconciliation Council and subsequently, after starting talks with the opposition, formed the Transition Committee for the salvation of the people with the promise of legislative and presidential elections for the end of 1991 and the exit of the military from political life for January 1992. A government was then formed whose leadership was entrusted to S. Sacko (April). In July-August 1991 a conference, in which 36 parties participated, he prepared a draft democratic constitution which was approved with a large majority in a referendum held on January 12, 1992 in which, however, there was little participation in the vote (43% of those entitled). The presidential elections won by AO Konaré (leader of ADEMA, Alliance for democracy in Mali), which was officially proclaimed president of the Third Republic on 8 June. The new government (dominated by the president’s party) set up in the same month launched, on the basis of agreements with the main international creditors, an economic policy aimed at drastically reducing public spending. The violent protests, especially student protests, aroused by the austerity measures led to the crisis of the government and its replacement by a cabinet also representative of the opposition (April 1993). In the meantime, thanks to the mediation of Algeria, a series of agreements were reached with the Tuareg, who had started a guerrilla activity in 1990.

Mali Between 1977-1990