On April 11, less than a week after his appointment by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, Mali’s new Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maïga published the names of his government team. The opposition had hoped after the recent Conference of National Understanding for a widely representative government, but was disappointed. It regrets that the armed groups, necessary partners for pacification of the North, are not represented in the new government.
The new government team has 35 ministers, which is four more than the previous one. Several key portfolios, such as Finance and Foreign Affairs, have not changed hands. Among the new faces is Maouloud Ben Katra, deputy secretary general of the country’s main trade union federation, who has been named Minister of Employment and Professional Training. Oumou Touré, president of the Coordination of Women’s NGOs (CAFO), has been appointed Minister for the Promotion of Women. Another new face is Baber Gano, secretary general of the presidential party RPM, who has been appointed Transport Minister. The appointments of Ben Katra and Oumou Touré are seen as a tactic aimed at ending social unrest, which has included strikes in the health and education sectors. It may thus be a way to prepare the re-election of President “IBK” next year.
“A big disappointment”
Soumaila Cissé, president of the Union for the Republic and opposition leader says the new government is a “big disappointment”. He says that after the Conference of National Understanding that took place from March 27 to April 2 in Bamako, Malians were expecting a government of national unity that could move forward implementation of the Algiers Accord, which is supposed to bring peace to the North of the country.
The agreement was signed in May-June 2015 by the Malian government and pro-government groups federated in the so-called Platform, as well as the Coordination of Awazad Movements (CMA), a coalition of mainly Touareg rebel groups. Under the agreement, interim authorities were supposed to be set up in the North of Mali within three months, but two years later the government and rebel groups have still not managed to agree a compromise for the interim administrations of Timbuktu and Taoudéni. Interim institutions have been set up in the other regions concerned, although not without difficulties.
“After the Conference of National Understanding, we were expecting a government that would be resolutely committed to tackling the challenges,” Soumaila Cissé told Studio Tamani.”The President said everyone was on board the train, but we see that the CMA and the Platform have got off at the nearest station!” Cissé thinks it is “a clear failure” that there are no representatives of these armed groups in the new cabinet. He also says the fact that “all the heads of political parties allied to the RPM are members of the government and have important posts” shows that “the choices were made just so as to prepare the next presidential election”.
“Token presence” refused
CMA spokesman Ilad Ag Mohamed says his movement refused to join the government as just a “token presence”, but that nevertheless “our greatest hope is that the new government will be able to give new impetus to the Algiers Accord for peace and reconciliation that came out of the Algiers process”.
The Platform, which also has no representative in the new government despite presenting a list of candidates, says it is very optimistic. “I have complete trust in the Prime Minister, I know him well,” declared Platform spokesman Fahad Ag Almahmoud. “My first concern is moving the Accord forward, making progress on the cantonment of armed groups and DDR process (Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration), and the installation of interim authorities where they are supposed to be.” The installation of transition institutions in Timbuktu had been scheduled for April 13 but has again been postponed until further notice.
New Prime Minister Abdoulaye Idrissa Maïga succeeds Modibo Keïta, who had been in office since January 2015. Maïga, 59, was previously Defence Minister. He becomes the fourth Prime Minister under Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, who was elected in 2013.