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close this bookThe Courier N° 159 - Sept - Oct 1996 - Dossier: Investing in People - Country Reports: Mali ; Western Samoa (EC Courier, 1996, 96 p.)
close this folderCountry report
close this folderMali : An omnipresent sense of history
View the document(introduction...)
View the documentThree republics to create one democracy
View the documentInterview with Ali N. Diallo, President of the National Assembly
View the documentProfile
View the documentInterview with Amadou Seydou Traoré, opposition leader and USRDA spokesman
View the documentThe magnetism of the unfamiliar... but unexotic
View the documentMali-EU cooperation
View the documentNGOs finally achieve tangible results

Interview with Amadou Seydou Traoré, opposition leader and USRDA spokesman

'Macro-economic indicators tell you nothing about the distribution of the country's resources'

· It cannot be easy to be in opposition when Parliament is dominated by a majority which is given a good press and is regarded abroad as a good pupil.

-We do not really find it a problem. If one is familiar with Mali's current situation, the people's views, reactions and judgments count for more than outside opinion, despite the fact the latter may seem important. However, we do take account of others' opinions. We are pleased to be able to speak to you-to express our ideas and points of view- so that outsiders can see that the USRDA offers a credible alternative for Mali. We feel quite secure in our current position because the principles and values we stand for are those closest to the Malian people. So we have no problem in being the opposition party. We are not the kind of hysterical opposition which resorts to foul means as well as fair ones.

· Given that most Malian political trends stem from the revolutionary democratic movement, what are your party's special features?

-Our party's origins are in the movement which dates from 26 March 1960-which itself grew out of an underground movement. The main component of this was the USRDA whose government was overthrown by a reactionary military putsch. Adema won the last elections, and we do not contest this fact despite a number of irregularities. Indeed, we supported the Adema government's initial actions. We were one of seven parties who regarded the Third Republic as our own offspring. Between 1992 and 1994, even when we faced grave difficulties and they were asking for suggestions, the government ignored our proposals. This happened, for example, at the time the World Bank threatened to pull out. As it functions at the moment, the government is not meeting the Malian people's basic aspirations. They want to see a change from the previous regime.

· What are your essential criticisms of the way Adema works?

-We are critical on a number of fronts. Looking at it first from an institutional standpoint, when the Malian people rejected the old regime, they wanted the existing set-up to be changed into a democratic one. The few institutions that have been established since then do not reflect this desire. They are virtually no different from what we had under the single-party system. True, we have an opposition party, but its views are ignored. Second, in terms of the management of democracy, a number of bodies, such as the State Commission on the public media, simply do not function. You have been in Mali for a week now, so you must have heard Adema spokesmen on the TV or radio. But you will never hear a member of the opposition. The space reserved for that -formerly an open forum for free political discussion-has been removed and the state-controlled TV and radio stations do not allow political parties to have a say. In the economic sphere, our approach is also completely different. We believe that support for the development of the private sector means that the state has to act as regulator. Economic development cannot simply be left to run its course as a kind of 'rat race'.

· Could you give us a few practical examples of what you describe as Use selling-off of the family jewels?

-With pleasure. Before the 26 March revolution, there was a general consensus that, in the process of privatisation, the state sector should be managed in a way that benefited the Malian economy. But the reality is that privatisation methods have not changed. They are no different from what they were in Moussa Traor time. The electricity sector, for example, which has not yet really been privatised, is now managed by the Bouyges group of France. And it costs more, which will hardly help the country's economic development. The state airline has simply been absorbed by Air Afrique.

· If you were in power, how much economic scope do you think you would have, given the prevailing trend towards international liberalisation?

-I recognise that there is a dominant international lobby which has drawn up its own conditions, laws and principles. Even if one does not agree with this approach, one has to take it into account. However, it should be feasible to achieve privatisation in a different way. We know what we are talking about because we used to run this country. Indeed, we set up the national economy. Before 1960, there was no economic system to speak of. l am currently completing the text of a work which looks at our economic position at the time of independence. The plain fact is that we had nothing at the time of independence. There were only three pharmacists, fewer than ten doctors, and about ten people qualified to teach in our grammar schools-not much to write home about after 70 years of colonialism! After 1960, we had to set everything up from scratch. If you trace the history of every country in the world, whether under a monarchy or a republic, you see that the state has always made the first move in bringing about industrialisation, developing the maritime sector, and stimulating imports and exports. If you think about it, at the outset, the main manufactured activities were the domain of royalty.

· You claim that your party left a legacy, but some might say that the highly interventionist regime of your hero, Modibo Keita, who brought about independence, contained the seeds of Moussa Traore's dictatorship.

-These are just fairy stories. When a regime is overthrown by a coup d'etat, it always becomes the victim of systematic defamation campaigns in the press. We were maligned for 23 years with no right of reply and no right to issue a statement to set the record straight. In a way, we are talking today about a past which did not exist. You know the saying 'you are not only what you are but also what people say you are'. This reference to dictatorship is one of the most serious calumnies. But no matter what lies are told, something of the truth will always remain. If our regime had been dictatorial or inquisitorial, a coup d'etat would not have been possible. Before the 1968 coup, Modibo Keita was given a file by the security services warning him of the plot by Moussa Traore, and giving a list of his accomplices. He was advised to arrest the conspirators and put them on trial. His response was that he would not agree to a Malian citizen being deprived of his liberty without a scrap of evidence. I knew Keita very well. It will be a long time before we have another head of state with such democratic convictions.

· The ordinary people, the farmers, say that they did better under Traore, than under Keita.

-Yes, but it depends who you talk to. With Traore, there was an atmosphere of moral decline. We were free to plunder, steal and murder, but it was not real freedom. The farmers see it from a different perspective. However, l can still show you a copy of the 'Summary Report on the Seminar on Cooperation in the Rural Environment' which we drew up in 1968, just a few months before the coup d'etat. This highlighted the fact that socialism had not penetrated into the countryside during the seven or eight years we were in power. So you see our own self criticism appeared in a document published in May 1968. This demonstrates the fact that we were not complacent.

· What is your view of the compliments the current government is receiving from many foreign observers, and the good marks it has been given in the macro-economic field by international institutions?

- Good macro-economic results which are due to good management of public finances are beneficial for the country. However, such management must be accompanied by greater welfare and an improved standard of living for the people. There is no point hailing a GDP increase of 3-4% if more than 10% of the population does not have enough to eat. You have been through Bamako and other towns and cities and you have seen the construction sites and big buildings. But in their daily life, people are now more ill at ease. They have been disappointed by the Adema regime. The welfare of the ordinary citizen cannot be defined by reference to the personal wealth of someone who is having a seven-storey building put up. All of this new construction is reflected in the higher GDP. But the macro-economic indicators tell you nothing about the distribution of the country's resources-and the scales are currently tipped towards injustice. Those who are working are earning less but those who do not work are earning more. Embezzlement and corruption are currently worse than under Moussa.

· What is the likelihood of a changeover of political power given that the opposition groups are at odds? The union between yourselves and Parena appears to have been suspended.

-We are capable of winning the forthcoming elections without entering into an agreement with any other party. Having said this, we are the party to which most groupings in Mali are now turning and we are currently in the process of forming an alliance which will carry a great deal of weight. l am not one to speculate but I am sure that Parena's supporters will, in time, reach the same conclusions as ourselves regarding the timeliness and suitability of an alliance between us. We have contacts with a number of other parties but we do not want to form an electoral pact in the way one would make preparations for a coup-forming a group, ousting the regime and then shooting at each other! Moreover, it is important not to confuse change with restoration. There are those who advocate the restoration of Moussa's regime. Opposition of that kind would suit the current government very well because it would allow them to raise the spectre of our former dictator in the hope of attracting support from those who are frightened by such a pro spect.
Interview by H.G.