The nature of the transition from 23 years of Mussa Traore's military dictatorship to a democratic regime has, to a great extent, shaped the character, strategies and needs of human rights NGOs in contemporary Mali. Mussa Traore seized political power in a military coup d'etat in 1968 and ruled the country until 1991. In 1991-- in the face of the mobilization of democratic social forces--another soldier had to step in to head a transitional government until an election was held, ushering in the present democratic government.
For the 23 years that Mussa Traore ruled, Mali was a classic case of an authoritarian African state. There was no rule of law. It was a one-party state, and all institutions were dominated by the party. Organizations within civil society, like trade unions or women's organizations, were all affiliated to the one party, constraining the space for any autonomous organization. The government operated a closed economy, with strong emphasis on the public sector.
Notwithstanding these state practices, Mali during this same period had a constitution (of 1974) which purported to protect human rights, and, what is more, the government ratified the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights in 1982.
With the end of the cold war and the overall quest for the democratic reconstruction of African societies, there was a people's revolt in Mali. The state responded by massacring students and children in 1991. This led to the organization of many NGOs, particularly women's NGOs, to deal with the situation.
With the overthrow of Mussa Traore's government and the call for a national conference, the political space for mass politics opened. The adoption of a new constitution in 1992 and the existence of an elected government made the political climate conducive for human rights NGOs. Many of the persons and organizations who served in the transitional government later found themselves either in the elected government, in opposition parties, or in human rights NGOs. By the close of 1991, as many as ninety-seven national NGOs existed in Mali.
There are a number of current human rights issues, however, to which it is worth calling attention:
- The problem of secession in the north by the Tuaregs has created tension between issues of state security and human rights. Already there have been cases of human rights abuses by the security forces. The not- so-covert support of the rebels by the Libyan government complicates the situation further.
- The mobilization of society, especially students, during the transition period has now created its own problem of rising expectations. The students, it is believed by many, have now developed the notion that they are "king makers," and, as such, can make and unmake governments in Mali at will.
- This state of affairs, coupled with the current structural adjustment policy and devaluation, is posing the biggest challenge to the government. NGOs too have to deal with a population that is disenchanted with democracy and skeptical of human rights advocacy because of the difficult economic situation.
- These issues aside, ethnicity and religion are not politicized issues in the Malian society.
This is the background within which to understand the work of Malian NGOs.
HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANIZATIONS
Following the imposition of a one-party state soon after independence and the coming to power of Mussa Troare in 1968, activities of civil society were nipped in the bud, and, in fact, in most instances criminalized. The Association Malienne des Droits de l'Homme (Malian Association for Human Rights) (AMDH) formed in 1988 to challenge this state of affairs.
AMDH's objectives are to:
- study and encourage the promotion of human and people's rights;
- work towards respect for human rights and liberties in conformity with the laws and international treaty obligations of the state;
- encourage the respect for law by the citizenry and the society as a whole;
- disseminate information on the principles of human and people's rights;
- encourage research and compile documents on human rights in general, and those of Africa and Mali in particular;
- cooperate with other human rights organizations at both the national and international levels which are working in the area of promotion and protection of human rights;
- publish their studies, articles and bulletins on the promotion and protection of human rights; and,
- organize seminars, conferences and workshops with the view to promoting human rights.
At the national level AMDH is made up of a Congress, a General Assembly and the National Secretariat. The national office is made up of the following positions: President, Vice-President, Secretary-General, Assistant Secretary-General, Secretary for Legal Affairs, Secretary for International Affairs, Secretary in charge of relations with other NGOs, Secretary for Social Affairs, Secretary for Culture, Information and the Press, Treasurer General, Assistant Treasurer, and four other commissioners.
AMDH has carried out several activities since its inception in 1988. It has undertaken advocacy and education in the form of seminars, conferences and workshops. It participated in the drafting of the country's democratic Constitution of 1992.
Association Muso Yiriwa (Femme Promotion) was created in 1994 by professionals of diverse background to complement the work of other women's organizations. Muso Yiriwa's unique feature is its specific focus on rural areas, which are generally neglected.
Muso Yiriwa's mandate is to contribute to the awakening of the rural population towards their rights, and to enable the population to participate actively in decision-making which affects their interests.
The supreme decision-making body of Muso Yiriwa is a General Assembly. The implementing organ is the Administrative Council.
The offices are President, Executive Secretary, Treasurer, Deputy Treasurer, Secretary for Information, Secretary for External Relations.
Muso Yiriwa provides training and information aimed at the population in general, and the rural population in particular. It also works towards the promotion of women through integrated development activities.
The Association pour le Progrès et la Défense des Droits des Femmes Maliennes (Association for the Progress and Defense of the Rights of Malian Women) (APDF) formed in 1991 after the massacre of students by the Mussa Traore government. The founders of APDF conceived of it as a democratic women's group designed to fight for change that would ultimately bring about democratic conditions that would allow organizations and interest groups to form outside the state system.
APDF's mandate is to organize women to enable them to defend their rights as well as improve upon their socio-economic condition and legal status within Malienne society.
APDF's General Assembly is the supreme decision-making body. The Executive Committee is elected from amongst the members of the General Assembly, and is mandated to implement the decisions of the General Assembly.
The Executive Committee is made up of the President, Secretary-General, Secretary for Administration, Secretary for Organizations, Secretary for External Relations, Secretary for Information and Sensitization, Treasurer-General, Deputy Treasurer, Commissioner for Conflict, Commissioner for Accounting, Secretary for Education, and Secretary for Social Affairs.
APDF has carried out activities in the area of sensitization. It has campaigned on violence against women and on the issue of early marriages. It has given economic assistance to women.
A group of women decided to form the Collectif des Femmes du Mali (the Women's Collective of Mali) (COFEM) after the massacre by Mussa Traore's government of the students in 1991. The objective was to create a women's rights NGO completely independent of the state party.
COFEM's main mandate is to promote the rights of women by ensuring that they have the requisite information which will enable them to participate more meaningfully in the political, economic, social and cultural development of Malienne society as a whole. The organization also seeks to fight all forms of discrimination against women.
The General Assembly, which is composed of all registered members of COFEM, is the supreme decision-making body of the organization, and defines its policies.
The General Assembly elects an Executive Committee which is empowered to implement policies decided upon by the Assembly. The Executive Committee is made up of 12 members: the President, Secretary-General, Secretary for Programmes, Secretary for Economic Activities, Secretary for Judicial Affairs, Secretary for International Relations, Secretary for Organization, Secretary for Information and Press, Treasurer, Deputy Treasurer, and Commissioner for Conflict Resolutions.
COFEM participated in the national conference and thereby took part in the drafting of the Malienne Constitution of 1992. It also contributed to the drawing up of the programme of the transitional government, and campaigned for women to participate in the elections.
COFEM has researched and disseminated information on women's rights, and translated women's rights materials into local languages. It has organized seminars, conferences and workshops, and mobilized women in the industrial sector to fight for their rights.
Comité d'Action pour les Droits de l'Enfant et de la Femme
(Action Committee for the Rights of the Child and the Woman)
The Comité d'Action pour les Droits de l'Enfant et de la Femme (Action Committee for the Rights of the Child and the Woman) (CADEF) was created in March 1990 to defend the rights of women and children in accordance with the provisions of the UN Conventions related to the rights of women and children. CADEF is part of an international network.
CADEF seeks to organize all persons who are interested in the defence of the rights of children and women, and to integrate women's and children's concerns into development processes with the view to promoting their health and improving their standard of living. It is also mandated to help in the consolidation of democracy.
The General Assembly of CADEF is composed of all of the organization's members and is the supreme decision- making organ of CADEF. The Executive Committee is elected from amongst the members of General Assembly, and has four permanent and twelve non-permanent portfolios. The four permanent portfolios are: President, Secretary-General, Treasurer-General, and Secretary for Management. The twelve non-permanent members are: Secretary for Legal Affairs, Secretary for External Relations, Secretary for Education and Communication, Secretary for Research, Secretary for Social Affairs, Secretary for Agriculture, Pastoral and Environmental Affairs, Secretary for Youth Affairs, and two Organizers.
CADEF has been involved in literacy campaigns and sensitization. It has provided assistance to rural and urban women, including efforts to promote their health. It has organized women to get access to bank credits and loan facilities. It has collaborated in research projects, and with NGOs in other countries of Africa, as well as the Americas, Europe and Asia.
Conseiller Juridique--Association Malienne pour le Développement
(Legal Counselor--Malian Association for Development)
Conseiller Juridique--Association Malienne pour le Développement (AMADE) was an initiative of a group of friends who were interested in addressing, through discussion and discourse, the problems of under-development generally and in Mali in particular. In May 1983, after a number of conferences, the group decided to create a permanent structure to deal more seriously with the question.
AMADE is a non-profit NGO with the mandate to promote socio-economic development of the rural population of Mali by initiating development projects with the approval of the village dwellers. Legal advice and assistance is also one of the aims of AMADE.
The General Assembly is the supreme decision-making body of AMADE. It elects an Executive Committee which is entrusted with execution of the policies and decisions of the General Assembly. The Executive committee is composed of the following officers: President, Vice-President, Secretary-General, Deputy Secretary-General, Treasurer-General, Deputy Treasurer-General and two Commissioners.
ProgrammeAMADE has has carried out about eighteen development projects in four regions of Mali.
- Nana K.A. Busia, Jr.
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