By Ambra Visentin

The Malian government has launched an inter-Malian dialogue with the aim of “reconciling the sons and daughters of the country and establishing lasting peace”. This initiative, requested by President Assimi Goïta and outlined in his address to the nation on 31 December 2023, led to the creation of the Steering Committee on 5 February 2024, followed by the organisation of a workshop to validate the mandate (26-29 February) and the presentation of the document to the Head of State on 4 March.
According to analysts, the main issues at stake in this dialogue are the extension of the transition and the possibility of Assimi Goïta running for president.

The inter-Malian dialogue requested by the Junta

After the creation of the Steering Committee, consultations were held with various representations, such as embassies, consulates and universities of the diaspora, in two phases: municipal (11-14 April) and regional (20-22 April). On this basis, the national meetings of the Inter-Malian Dialogue for Peace and Reconciliation began in Bamako on Monday 6 May.

The declared objective of this inter-Malian framework is to contribute to restoring peace, social cohesion and national reconciliation, identifying the causes of the crises affecting the country and the conditions for the return of refugees and displaced persons. It would also aim at the prevention and management of conflicts through the promotion of endogenous management mechanisms for peace-building, and the identification of strategies and mechanisms for the restoration of state authority in peace-building. At the inauguration of this national stage, which will run from 6 to 10 May 2024, the organisers recalled the will expressed by President Assimi Goïta through this initiative, namely “to consolidate national unity, in peace and dialogue, in harmony and empathy, in order to give life to national reconciliation, the indispensable basis for the maximum social cohesion sought and the sustainability of the Malian territory”.

Accusations from the opposition

Mali is being governed by juntas following the coups d’état in 2020 and 2021. The security situation has deteriorated. A humanitarian and political crisis has emerged. Since then, opposition voices have been largely silenced. These inter-Malian dialogue meetings are therefore taking place in a climate of pressure, particularly from political and civil society organisations, on the current government, which they accuse of using these consultations to legitimise its power. In fact, the government has failed to meet the deadlines set out in the Transitional Charter: presidential elections should have been held by the end of February and power should have been handed over to elected civilians by 26 March.

On 27 March 2024, the Reference syndicale des magistrates (REFSYMA) and the Association malienne des procureurs et poursuivants (AMPP) petitioned the Constitutional Court to declare “the existence of an institutional vacuum in Mali due to the vacancy of the presidency of the military transition and the expiry of its organs, and the establishment of a civilian transition with a mission”. The Constitutional Court ruled that these applications could not be accepted.

On 1 April, more than 80 Malian political parties and civic groups issued a joint statement calling for presidential elections and an end to military rule ‘as soon as possible’. Under pressure from regional leaders, the junta promised to hold elections by 26 March and return power to a civilian government.

Fighting Islamist terrorists

In January this year, the military governments of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger surprisingly announced their immediate withdrawal from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). The three states accuse ECOWAS of imposing “inhuman and illegal” sanctions. They also accuse the organisation of failing to support them in the fight against Islamic terrorists.

In Mali, ten members of a coalition of armed groups allied to the Bamako regime were killed by jihadists on 29 April in northern Mali, where the junta is still fighting several Islamist and separatist movements. The victims were fighters from the Coordination des mouvements et Front patriotique de résistance (CM-FPR), an alliance of armed groups fighting alongside government forces. The Gao region is the scene of regular clashes between mainly Tuareg jihadist or separatist groups and the Malian army, supported by Russian allies and local armed groups. The colonels who seized power by force in 2020 promised to regain control of the entire country and broke off their military partnership with France to turn to Russia.

Cover image: Ansongo, Mali – December 2015. French soldiers of barkhane military operation launch in 2013 against terrorism in the area. By photographer Fred Marie on Shutterstock