Bogolans and Guida's 'Never Again' Manifesto
MaliMali's bogolans are drying by the Bani river (the tributary to the Niger, which flows close by Djenne). There is plenty of activity in the MaliMali studio even though I am sitting by another water, far far away from the Bani river: lake Siljan near Leksand in Dalarna, Sweden, where a gentler sun is warming my limbs.
But my mind turns to Djenne, and Mali of course.
Dembele and the others in the studio are working to produce some fabrics requested by the World of Interiors for their October issue! The fabrics must arrive in London for the photographic shoot before the 22nd of June. This is fantastic news, since it will help in our scheme to try and survive in Djenne without tourists. Meanwhile I am also working, with my website designer Mark, on the MaliMali online shop and the updated website www.malimali.org which should be ready end June insh'allah...
Keita is hesitant as to whether I ought to be living in Djenne on my return at the end of June for security reasons. I do hope to return to Djenne as usual but also to spend more time, perhaps a week/ten days a month in Bamako, hopefully to deal with the dispaching of all the orders we will get for MaliMali studio!
But everything concerning Mali has an enormous question mark hanging over it...
The situation seems to deteriorate by the day, with the country in a deep and double existential crisis both over national leadership and the occupation in the north.
In Bamako groups and organisations are springing up daily all trying from different positions to find a solution to the enormous problems that beset the country.
One of these new groups is founded by Guida Landoure, our friend who I interviewed in this blog regarding the Mali situation (see blog April 8.) He has sent me the manifesto that he wrote with some likeminded young Malians for their new organisation "Never again". I believe that their diagnostic for the reasons for the mess, as well as their recipe for how to build a new strong Mali are interesting and perceptive, and I have translated it here below. The reasons for Mali’s derailment
From Independence until today, Mali’s successive governments have failed to meet people's expectations. The different leaders have either promoted a vision that differed from that of the people of Mali (first republic; led the country into a nepotistic and authoritarian state (second republic; or mismanaged state property (third and recent republic). These failures have led to the overthrow of all these governments, and the coup of March 1991 was the most significant and dramatic.
In March 1991, the Malian people, with the help of some of the military overthrew the dictatorial regime of General Moussa Traoré. After 23 years of autocracy, nepotism and lethargy, the population had suffered increasingly by delays in salary payments and lack of development in the priority sectors. They took to the streets, urged to action and encouraged by those that called themselves "genuine democrats" and who included the then general Amadou Toumani Toure. They succeeded in overthrowing the regime on March 26, 1991 but not without the cost of many lives. However,many had been willing to offer this ultimate sacrifice for the establishment of democracy. The watchword became: a state run ‘by the people, for the people and with the people’.
In the aftermath of this coup a new hope was born in everyone: young, old, men and women. The possibility of choosing Mali’s leaders and hence participate in the country’s future seemed within grasp. There was hope of seeing increased performance in education; there was hope that finally the state would treat its citizens with dignity: that wages would increase and that jobs would be created. Finally there was hope that the state would develop the primary sector to eradicate the poverty which was endemic.
Democratic elections were held and all or at least many expressed their choice through the ballot box for the first time, bringing to power the first democratically elected president, Alpha Oumar Konare.
However, although there was some progress in some sectors, it is clear that disappointment began to take hold in the population from the early years of the third republic. The education sector has deteriorated over the years; corruption has reached incalculable levels, as made obvious by the many billionaires among the civil servants. Government opposition has been discouraged and political debate, without which no system can consider itself democratic, has been stifled.
These evils have only worsened over successive administrations, resulting in further impoverishment of the population and a deterioration of public functioning. Twenty years after the advent of "democracy" a deep malaise has spread within the Malian people: large scale corruption and misuse of influence has become the currency; an attitude of mediocrity and laissez-faire has become wide-spread; the legal system is degraded and society lacking in justice. All these evils have created a rupture of confidence between the people and those in power. Who should be blamed?
1. The Politicians.
The politicians in charge of the first democratic government (the third republic) have been more concerned with efforts to weaken the opposition, killing political debate and lining their own pockets than with finding lasting solutions to the problems for which they were elected. Therefore elections are now decided by the purchase method: politicians are buying their votes from the impoverished electorate, organizing huge political rallies where money and cloth and other commodities are handed out for the sole purpose of ensuring their election. This political game has created distrust and disillusionment in the people, causing a rift between politicians and voters. It has culminated in the participation of a smaller and smaller proportion of the population at the elections. We have gone from around 30% participation in 1992 to 15% at the last election, raising the question of government legitimacy.
Although the behavior of the politicians has been wrong and irresponsible, the Malian people themselves must also carry some of the blame: we should not have given up since we do possess the weapon of change: the vote. Instead the population has fallen into fatalism, perceiving itself to be powerless against these politicians who are regarded as all the same: all of them talking the same language pre-election and then turning their backs after being elected. Fatalism has reached such levels that people think that politics has become just another way to get rich.
3. The International community
The international community sees elections as the only barometer of democracy in Africa. The reality of day to day life in these so-called African democracies where corruption and nepotism is rife is of no interest to them. They continued to support the various governments, knowing full well that public funds were being squandered by some politicians.
Observations and solution:
The politicians alone are not capable of solving the problems of society. The population itself must exert pressure on the government by claiming its responsibility in the management of public affairs. This is done by both observing and questioning government actions from the very beginning of the mandates, and by insisting on both consultation and accountability in any great decisions which affect the future of the nation.
With this in mind, we have come together to build a movement whose aim it is to stimulate the spirit of citizenship in the population by inviting them to take their rightful place in the management of state affairs. This requires their involvement at all levels: in choosing their representatives; in recognizing and rejecting any act contrary to law; in questioning and putting pressure on their elected leaders concerning the problems which affect the country in general and their own localities in particular. It is only in this way that we are going to be able to avoid the events that happened on the 19 November 1968, the 26 March 1991 and the 22 March 2012.
We are committed to work actively in bringing about a new awareness, leading to a civic awakening in the population. This awareness will demand the end to impunity and to laissez-aller; an end to corruption and to nepotism.
We will require the establishment of a strong and just state where excellence is the only guarantee of access to a responsible position; a state concerned with the development of key sectors such as education, health and food self-sufficiency.
We are convinced that it is only by respecting these principles that we can ensure that we have no more coups d’états.
The nation-building is not up to politicians alone, they have shown their limits. The building of our nation is incumbent upon all native sons and daughters of Mali. In respecting our daily duties as citizens we will be certain to force a change of behavior in our leaders.
We propose to call this movement"Never Again".
The goals of our Movement:
- Raise awareness in the people by pushing them to get involved in the management of state affairs,
- Create a forum for dialogue and reflection on the evils that plague society in order to find sustainable solutions,
- Stimulate the patriotic spirit of Mali by improving the individual behavior of everyone,
- Encourage if not insist upon the discussion of ideas and policy that is the bedrock of any development.
I think Guida hits the nail on the head by the observation that democracy is also the responsibility
of the people, not only the politicians. Malians have become lethargic and fatalistic indeed, and have felt that they have no power in the face of a corrupt, so called 'democratic' state. This has led to a climate in which corruption can flourish freely and unchecked.
But the largely uneducated Malian people have long way to go before they have the confidence to assume this responsibility. It seems that a people must believe in themselves before they can believe in democracy. Is Africa ready? It is perhaps not a co-incidence that Guinea Bissau had a coup just before their elections too? Democracy must grow new roots in African soil, and this soil is different to the West. Perhaps our sort of democracy cannot be imposed on Africa just exactly the way we want it? Guida's attack on the West's lazy acceptance of anything as long as its called 'democratic'is quite justified.
But Guida's movement is at least a beacon forwards, so may his 'Never Again'
movement inspire Malians towards a new African democracy!