Sunday, April 08, 2012


Dr. Guida Landoure by Ann's mango tree.

Our friend Guida is born into an old and distinguished Djenne family. His father was a much loved Grand Marabout with the unusual advantage of being highly educated in both a European and Islamic tradition, a privilege which he also bestowed on his sons. Guida’s brother Ousmane has a PhD in economics and lived in Paris for about 10 years, where he enjoyed an enviable career as a banker until he turned his back on the world, returned to Djenne and followed in their father's footsteps. Guida has recently returned to Mali, having finished his PhD in neurogenetics in Washington DC and at London UCL. There was never any doubt in his mind that he would not return to Mali after his studies. He, like my Keita, could never imagine living anywhere else. Guida’s background gives him a good vantage point to observe and comment on the recent events in Mali: he understands the West, he understands Mali. I invited him to Ann’s this afternoon and played reporter:

here is my interview:

S: Did you support Sanogo’s Coup d’Etat?

G: It is difficult for me to say a clear ‘yes’. Mali lived in a military dictatorship for 23 years, between 1968 to 1991. A revolution was needed to get rid of it. Many people were therefore hesitant in endorsing a coup which might return us once more to a military dictatorship. However, once the Coup was announced, most people were in accord with the reasons behind it.

S: What were the reasons?

The junta gave as a reason ATT’s mismanagement of the northern conflict. But the coup was at the same time an expression of the profound malaise which had been growing in the population. Almost all Malians agree that the country was not governed in these recent years: the impunity and corruption have been embedded in the system, and the mediocrity in the administration, producing a total disenchantment with the democratic system. That’s why, since 1992, the first democratic election, we never went beyond 20% of participation in the elections. Even in the last elections, when ATT was re-elected, only 18% of the electorates’ votes were casted for a total of 5- 6 000 0000 people eligible to vote. He was elected by only 400 000. Is that a mandate?
Let me give you my example of the corruption in our country: I came back in August 2011. I was a government worker when I left the country, so I had to have a training leave authorization. I am still waiting for the paperwork to re-start working. It is just a question of writing a one page document (they have samples, they just need to change name and date) that has to be signed. They are waiting for a bribe! When I was leaving U.S. people thought I would be a big professor, others thought I could be a minister (they think it is easy..!) But they cannot understand that I am still waiting to get the authorization to start working! You think this is a good example of democracy ? People think we are in democracy because we hold elections. No, democracy is not just changing presidents. It is about government accountability, it is about having a fair justice, it is about good management of the country’s wealth. We lacked all that. Our democracy is a façade.

S: Do people feel as if their vote makes no difference?

G: Yes, and above all they do not trust that any of the candidates on offer will make any difference. They also feel that the president is known before the voting begins. There is of course a means of registering this mal contentment, and that is by spoiling the vote. Malians are not really aware of this, but it would be the democratic way of manifesting disenchantment, rather than not voting.

S: So it was not just a problem with ATT it was a problem with the democratic system?

G: The candidates on offer were perceived to be perpetuating a corrupt system. They were part of a political elite, having more or less all been ministers at one time or another, and they were mostly known to be corrupt. Not one of the major political parties had stood against ATT in the last elections. Why? Because he had made sure that they did not.

S: How?

G : In order to be seen to be making an effort to control corruption within the government, ATT had commissioned a ‘Verificateur’, an independent investigator to observe closely the financial dealings of the various government departments and ministries. The result of these lengthy investigations were delivered and showed flagrant misconduct and enormous mismanagement of government funding in most cases. ATT decided unilaterally and arbitrarily to pursue only 20 of the hundreds of cases of misconduct that were reported. This is not an assumption; he said it publicly on TV. He gave as reason for this leniency that he did not want to embarrass publicly the perpetrators of these crimes, not to humiliate them, but instead he would deal with them privately. He would also have a tool to pressure them because more often than not these people were affiliated to big political parties! So most of the corrupt officials never went to trial. Some of these were members of parliament for the major parties, the parties that should have made up the opposition in the last elections. ATT is said to have suggested to the would-be opponents that it would be politic not to stand, since he had information on them that would not sit happily with the electorate… Now, however, ATT’s mandate had run out and the time had come for these parties to re-emerge.

S: What will happen now? Sanogo has stepped aside. Will these corrupt politicians, most of who had been arrested, just be released and not go to trial? Will they continue just as if nothing had happened?

G: There is tension in Bamako now over this very question. It is not clear what will happen. It will take quite some time before new elections can be organized- the problem in the north has to be solved first. If the interim government does a good job, they will be able to manage the situation so that this problem does not even arise. In any case, it is difficult to imagine that a Modibo Sidibe would now be able to attain any sizeable proportion of the vote. He and others have been discredited.
In addition, the real problem is that people do not trust politicians. If Sanogo has been popular, it is not because people embraced his action, it is because of his rejection of the politicians. Those politicians are the same guys that put young people on the street back in 1991 to demonstrate against the dictatorial regime. They claimed to be “sincere” democrats, and promised all good things to us. But once they came to power, instead of solving our problems, they worked on emptying our treasury. Today they are the ones with big buildings. You can find many government employees who are billionaires. It is the same disenchantment that brought ATT to power in 2002 because people thought he was not part of the system. But 10 years later, it is a complete disappointment. I agree that as far as infrastructure goes, he did many good things, but these results are not edible.

The question is how much more could have been done? Mali is third producer of gold in Africa, if not lately second producer of cotton, and we export fruits and livestock. But we are 174th in 177 countries according to UNDP. This just means that the money goes somewhere else. I was not an opponent of ATT. He is the only person I have ever casted a vote for. Politicians have weakened with this coup.
If you hear and understand Sanago’s statement of giving the power back to civilians, the prime minister will now have all power, not the president, according to the constitution. They want this prime minister not to be from a political party, and the other members of the interim government will be chosen according to capacity not political affiliation only.

S: And what about the North?

G: If I were the President of this nation I would not spend one franc CFA on trying to keep the Touaregs if they want to go. Let them take the large part of the North- perhaps not Timbuktu and Gao, but the rest. The problem of the AQIM and the terrorists is a separate issue. But the Touareg rebellion itself, and their demands for a separate state, I think it should go to a referendum in the North, perhaps conducted by the UN. If it is clear that the majority want to secede, let them do so!

S: I think it seems strange that the first images we have seen from the crisis in the north have just come in from Timbuktu the other day. What happened to the intrepid war correspondent? I have a feeling that all the reporters are just hanging around Bamako, quoting each other and taking pictures of the junta making pronouncements. Why don’t they go north? Are they too scared?

G: Syria is the focal point just now. There are plenty of reporters and photographers willing to risk their lives in Syria- it is a question of news demand. Syria is more important than Mali. The atrocities committed when the rebels took Gao were not recorded on any films, they were regarded as an internal affair, and no reporters or film crew were dispatched . But once the international community got wind that Ansar Dine or AQIM were in control of Timbuktu rather than MNLA, this became a matter of enough interest to send a crew! The recent atrocities started on January 24th 2012 when MNLA and AQIM captured about 90 Malian soldiers and slaughtered them. They castrated some and let them go, they raped women. But no one reacted to that. But when I was in the West I heard about things that happens in Afghanistan; I heard that Kadhafi’s fighters raped women (this went on U.S. news for 2 weeks), and so on… It is clear that western countries follow their interests: this is not new, they themselves say that they do not have friends, they have interests.

S: So, finally, a last word on the situation in Mali: what will be the lasting effect, if any, of the Coup d’Etat? Will it have made any difference?

G: The Coup was not a good advertisement for our country. But it served as a wake-up call for the people. They have woken from their apathetic slumber and they will take more interest and responsibility in this country’s affairs. It is hard to imagine the old political ruling class in charge once again as if nothing had happened. Some people like my father and brother gave up and went to find a refuge in Djenne which is also noble, but I also think we should fight. This attitude resonates more and more in discussions even between highly educated people who have been left aside or chosen to step aside.

Guida’s conclusion was echoed in an email message from Joseph Brunet-Jailly , a Frenchman with Djenne connections over many years, a founding member of Djenne Patrimoine. He had received the following message from Mali yesterday morning:

"ces deux semaines, par le désaveu cinglant que des gens du peuple ont infligé à la classe politique et militaire malienne et par le bouillonnement que ça a entraîné dans les esprits et les familles, nous projettent vers un avenir, certes incertain, mais où de nouvelles forces et une nouvelle génération politiques vont obligatoirement s'affirmer."
("These two weeks, by the stinging repudiation that the common people have inflicted on the Malian political and military elite, and the fermentation it has brought with it in the minds and in the families, we are moving towards a future, albeit uncertain, where new forces and a new political generation will necessarily assert itself. ")

6 Comments:

Blogger afrika-wahn Elisabeth Böhm said...

Thanks Sophie for your background information. Here in the Geman speaking countries Mali has no importance and all news are the same.
Porte toi bien
Salut
Elisabeth

4:40 PM  
Blogger Chris B said...

Yes, an very interesting interview indeed. Thank you! Still thinking of Mali and hoping that this - somehow - blows over soon and painlessly. It is a good thought, that maybe this will serve to wake people up, and strengthen the country.

Warm wishes,
Chris

7:26 PM  
Blogger Susan Scheid said...

This is a terrific interview, and clearly so much needed. Of course, for those of us not familiar with the situation, it can be hard to follow all the threads. That said, though, there are a great many things Landoure has stated that resonate, problems while, not at so acute a point as in Mali, that exist also in the US.

First, this: “No, democracy is not just changing presidents. It is about government accountability, it is about having a fair justice, it is about good management of the country’s wealth.” Absolutely right.

Second: The statistics on low voter turn-out. I recognize so well the downward spiral of participation that ensues when citizens lose faith in their government. (It is what happens when the sound of hope singing grows faint.)

Third: “The Coup was not a good advertisement for our country. But it served as a wake-up call for the people. They have woken from their apathetic slumber and they will take more interest and responsibility in this country’s affairs. It is hard to imagine the old political ruling class in charge once again as if nothing had happened.” I join in hoping he is right.

Thank you for the news from Mali, and be safe.

7:45 PM  
Blogger David said...

Greetings to Guida, whose Malian meal in his north London student digs will never be forgotten, and what a fascinating insight - once again, more interesting than anything the journos in Bamako have served up. Today the future for Mali does look just that little bit brighter.

12:53 PM  
Blogger toubab said...

Dearest David,
thank you for all your support always! and thank you for mentioning me on your blog, so that lovely people like Susan above is now also looking in! When I see you in London you must help me to put yours and her blog as links on mine- I am such a neanderthal when it comes to these things, so you must help me! Very much looking forward to seeing you and the Diplo-mate very soon! lots and lots and lots of love S

7:51 PM  
Blogger David Eldridge said...

Thanks for posting, definitely going to subscribe! See you on my reader.


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