Mali Celebrates 50 amid calls for reconciliation

By Kemo Cham – Mali president, Amadou Toumani Touré, tasked the people of Mali to collectively devise a way towards national reconciliation as means to national development.

President Touray

President Touray made this call as part of his speech on the occasion of Mali’s Fiftieth Anniversary of Independence. Today, September 22, 2010, Malians join about 17 other African countries which gained independence, mainly from France, in celebrating 50 years of self rule.

Amid an impressive line up of events, Malians are celebrating in remembrance of a “solemn day”, (22 September, 1960) when “those with courage and determination, opposed, with all their might, from colonial penetration to foreign domination.”

In the view of the Malian leader, there can not be any better way to remember their independence heroes than by pursuing the fulfillment of their dreams, and this can only be possible with the involvement of all.

“Today, I would ask our people and the entire political class and civil society, to join me in thinking about the most appropriate way to move forward on the path of national reconciliation,” he said in a televised statement on the eve of celebrations.

High profile guests, including leaders from around Africa and beyond, among them Libyan leader Colonel Khadafy, Guinea’s General Saikouba Conaté, the leaders of Chad and Togo, gathered on the grounds witnessing official ceremonies marking the day, which is characterized by march-past by various units of the security forces, school children and civil society organizations. Broadcast life on national television, there is also a spectacular display of Mali’s military might with fighter jets constantly circling the sky around the celebration grounds and elsewhere in Bamako.

Like for a number of countries in Africa, the successes Malians enjoy today have been the result of struggles that go beyond just the fight against colonial domination. It took sacrifices against obstacles that had to be confronted even after independence. One such memorable part of Malian history is the culmination of events leading to what is seen by many Malians as a revolution.

A government that resulted from a coup against independent leader, Modibo Keita, resorted to dictatorship under coup leader General Moussa Traoré. What ended up becoming a police state saw opponents of the regime, mostly academics and teachers, monitored by informers and dealt with drastically.

At the climax of that tyranny, Malians decided to take their destiny in their hands. And at the head of the ensuing “revolution” was General Amadou Toumani Touré. As military leader, he would hand over power the following year.

Close to two decades later, Retired General Touray, best known as ATT, is addressing his people as perhaps the most popular leader in Mali, as the country celebrates 50 years of nationhood.

“The celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the independence of our country gives me the opportunity to make a fitting tribute to our armed forces and security with dignity that marked their presence on all the major projects of national construction and maintenance of Peace in Africa and worldwide. I have not forgotten the social and professional organizations, trade unions who have taken an active part in liberating our people from colonial rule, as in all the decisive stages of the historical development of independent Mali,” President Touray said in his independence message.

On Mali’s relation to the outside world, especially its former colonial rulers, President Touray said the attainment of independence was considered a time to break with the foundations of colonialism, but that the people of Mali had always expressed their willingness to cooperate “with all people who respect its sovereignty and share its ideals. This line is still valid.”

Paying tribute “to the immortal memories that time can not fade”, Touray stressed that a “sense of honor, dignity, tolerance and solidarity are the values that underpin our society and this is a legacy of several centuries.”

Further stressing his point for reconciliation, President Amadou Toumani Touray went back on memory lane, when he handed over power to a newly elected civilian government following the 1991 coup. He said then that despite the ardent need for a reconciled nation, the country could not “forget those who died fighting for freedom and we will never cease to honor their memory …” But, he added, “this requires a legitimate point that they are not avenged, because the future is not built on revenge but the law.”

He then noted that with strict compliance with the independence of the judiciary, they were able to attain this, followed by “measures of appeasement policies.”

Implying the effect of temptation that could have forced him to hold on to power as a military leader, President Touray noted that as “one of the actors of the events of March 1991,” he measured the weight of history and responsibility, and saw the greatness of “our legendary people.”

Despite the pressing need for further quest for development, Independent Mali has achieved a lot to justify a befitting commemoration of self rule. Such is a view shared by every Malian, not least its present leader. President Touray cited a number of areas Independent Mali has registered tremendous development in.

On September 22, 1960, Mali had 350 km of paved road, and now this stands at 5700 km in 2010. The Civil Service had fewer than 20 senior Class A and it is 12,500 today. In terms of agriculture, the area equipped for irrigation amounted to 50,000 hectares as against 345, 240 today… Water supply, then provided by three pumping stations, touched only 2% of the population coverage rate, and in 2010, 73.34% of the population has access to drinking water. Over this same period, the Malian population increased from 04,000,000 to 14,500,000 inhabitants.

President Touray, however, strongly believe in dedicating Mali’s gain to its rightful people – the people of Mali, and “to the fighters who remain for us an inexhaustible source of inspiration… the men and women who have identified with the destiny of our people, who have dedicated their struggle for the emancipation of our country…”

He said the results of 50 years of politico-administrative institutions that have succeeded due to the defined objectives, constraints of time, and the strategies implemented have varied from one period to another. He added that each sequence has been based on the achievements of the previous.

“But we emphasize strongly that the principal actor in all cases are the people of Mali who have not failed, whenever circumstances required, to impose their choice.

President Touray used his independence speech to stress the role democracy and the promotion of good governance practices play in all these. He said the rigorous management of public resources is now a prerequisite for economic, social and cultural development, “which our people legitimately aspires”.

“Each of us should be convinced of the extreme importance of working in this direction,” he urged.