Supporting peaceful social, political, cultural and economic change in Mali

Originally published
View original


Executive summary

The 2012 crisis revealed deep fractures in Malian society, politics and culture that contributed to the apparently sudden disintegration of the state. The Danish Embassy in Bamako, Mali, commissioned this research in the midst of the crisis to improve understanding of the current social, political, cultural and institutional context in Mali and to identify entry points for donors to use development aid as a tool to support processes that could lead to positive change.

This research has identified a hunger for debate on every aspect of what it means to be Malian.
There is a desire for a new Mali, a Mali of the 21st century: where the old systems of ‘consensus’ politics, mousalaka, clientelism, corruption and the divisions between the nyèmogow and the brousse konomogow, the leaders and the led, evolve into a more inclusive participation; where public institutions and the political class are reformed and reinvigorated. However, the desire for change does not imply agreement: there are deep fractures between communities, between citizens and the state, between generations, and between men and women, rural and urban, rich and poor, conservative and progressive, traditional and reformist. The challenge for the donor community is to engage sensitively, supporting a process of long-term reform and inclusion. Avoiding difficult issues may leave tensions festering, only to erupt again, as they did in 2012.

This report draws on fieldwork conducted in November 2013 in a range of locations across Mali, with additional input from northern-based researchers. It draws on the views and opinions of a range of Malians to identify key processes that donors and other internationals could support to contribute to long-term, peaceful and sustainable development. The recommendations are clustered in thematic areas: reforming state institutions and state-society relations; restoring security and public safety; fostering transitional justice and reconciliation; supporting citizenship through education; promoting conflict-sensitive, inclusive economic growth. The thematic recommendations are complemented by more universal recommendations to the international community in Mali.

The research identifies the following key processes – some of which are underway, others still aspirational – that may contribute to positive social, political, cultural and economic change in Mali:

  • Shifting from consensus to participation in the political culture;
  • Improving relations between traditional, local and central government;
  • Improving access to justice;
  • Restoring security and public safety;
  • Building a legitimate, credible transitional justice process;
  • Supporting citizenship through education;
  • Improving economic governance;
  • Promoting inclusive and conflict-sensitive development.