Enabling Environments for Civic Movements and the Dynamics of Democratic Transition - Mali

Period of democratic transition: 1991–1992
Pro-democracy civic movement: present

Soon after independence from France in 1960, General Moussa Traore led a bloodless coup establishing a single-party regime in 1979 and left a legacy of corruption and economic mismanagement.

In March 1990, a debate on multipartyism took place in Bamako during a conference of national officials. While most of those present agreed that the country was in urgent need of political pluralism, Traore insisted that multipartyism was not an option for a country as ethnically diverse as Mali. However, in October small groups of demonstrators began demanding democracy. Traore continued to stand firm on his single-party position but announced in January 1991 that he would permit further debate on democracy. Believing this to be inadequate, thousands took to the streets throughout the country in the midst of a general strike, demanding an open political system. In response, the government banned all opposition activity and arrested opposition leaders and demonstrators as young as 11 years of age. In February 1991, the government announced a state of emergency and imposed a curfew, continuing its crackdown on the opposition. In response, many protests degenerated into destructive riots where clashes with security services left over 160 dead. At this point, the army refused to continue suppressing the protests and, under the leadership of reformist Amandou Toumani Toure, deposed the Traore regime through a military coup. Toure's assurances that the military would play a limited role in the transition were upheld, and a national conference of civil society members took place in July 1991, adopting a new draft constitution that was approved by a December referendum.

In elections held in April 1992, Alpha Konare was elected president with 69 percent of the second-round vote. Despite accusations of fraud, international observers deemed the election to be essentially fair. Mali has been a successful example of stable African democracy ever since.

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