Each time political scientists in the West talked about democratisation in Africa during the last twenty years, you could bet that Mali was rated as a reformer and a good example. The country received a lot of plaudit from Western governments, the academic world and developmental organizations especially for its transition from a long period of military rule under Moussa Traore to a civil government under Alpha Konare. He became the first democratically elected President in 1992.
The coup of March 2012 terminated the Malian experiment with democracy for the time being. Dissatisfied with the hesitant reaction to the uprising of Tuareg and Islamists in the North, young officers under the leadership of Captain Amadou Sanogo disposed the President Amadou Toumani Toure. In August 2012, an interim cabinet under President Dioncounda Traore with 31 ministers officially took over, but most observers believe that the military still holds the real power.
Despite all the regalia, Mali’s democracy had and has not much in common with a parliamentarian democracy in the Western world. Politics and economy of the country were and are coined by clientelistic networks between some big men or big women and a multitude of poor and politically marginalized people. The sheer number of NGO’s and political parties cannot hide the fact that Mali is a neopatrimonial state where the logics of the formal and the informal are intimately intertwined.