In Bamako

In the 1990s and early 2000s, Mali was the poster child of democratisation in Africa. It is now seen as the West’s biggest disappointment on the continent. It has experienced three coups in a decade and was more or less ungovernable in the intervening years. Today, it is ruled by a military junta that persecutes political opponents, derides the West and has Vladimir Putin as a patron. But just as the West’s lionisation of Malian democracy was excessive, its current disenchantment might be too, Rahmane Idrissa writes in the London Review of Books Diary 'In Bamako'.

One person, one vote makes no sense to people in Mali because it insists that majority opinion is the only way to adjudicate daunting issues of justice and power in a complex, heterogeneous society. The principle of justice in old Sahelian regimes is that each person must get something and no one should walk away empty-handed. The most persistent criticism of electoral democracy in the region – not just in Mali, but in Niger and Burkina – is that it breeds exclusion, barring the defeated from any share in the spoils or decisions, while the winners rejoice in victory for ‘notre régime, notre pouvoir’.

Read Rahmane Idrissa's conbribution to LRB's Diary, 'In Bamako'.

Author(s) / editor(s)

Rahmane Idrissa

About the author(s) / editor(s)

Rahmane Idrissa is a political scientist fast embracing history. His research expertise ranges from issues of states, institutions and democratisation in Africa to Salafi radicalism in the Sahel and current projects on the history of state formation in Africa, with a focus both on the modern (Niger) and premodern eras (Songhay).

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