Mali’s political future remains uncertain after a mutiny by the country’s soldiers and the subsequent overthrow of the government of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last August. The coup was occasioned by a popular protest across the country demanding the resignation of Keita, who came into office in 2013.
Among other grievances that led to the protest was the cancellation of 30 results in the legislative elections in mid-April, lack of jobs, authoritarianism, poor governance and so on. As expected, the Malian soldiers took advantage of the people’s protest to depose the president and hold themselves up as the new leaders of the French-speaking West African country.
Various interest groups have sort to shape the new direction of Mali’s political future. Regional block ECOWAS initially took a firmer stand by imposing economic sanctions on Mali. The sanctions were later eased as they were having an effect on ordinary Malians amidst COVID-19. ECOWAS has also held several meetings with interest groups in order to bring the country back to a democratic path.
One of the recent meetings was in Ghana where the country’s new military leaders were in attendance. The African Union (AU) has also suspended Mali from its fold until the military junta hands over to a civilian government. The UN also followed suit with a condemnation of the power grab in Mali.
These moves by the regional, continental and global bodies are essential in returning Mali to a democracy. However, one interest group conspicuously missing in the discussion on Mali’s new political direction is the Malians in the diaspora.
Since the end of the Cold War, diaspora groups and homeland associations have been seen as both development agents and security actors. In other words, they are considered as actors in promoting social reconstruction and conflict resolution. Malians in the diaspora contribute diversely to the development of their homeland and therefore any mediation that seeks to chart a new political path must involve them.
To provide some context, since the Malian revolution of 1991, the Malian diaspora emerged as an economic, social and even political force by serving on some institutions of the Republic. Just like any diaspora community, Malians continue to hold emotional and material ties to their country of birth and are deeply concerned about events at home.
In periods of internal chaos like the recent coup, the members of the Malian diaspora have supported left-behind families and their communities concerning food, health and education. On its own initiatives, the diaspora has also invested in infrastructure in areas such as water supply, rural roads, schools, agric projects, health centers, among others.
Aside from these interventions, Malians in the diaspora send cash remittance back home which is mostly used to pay school fees, hospital bills and invest in other small and medium-sized businesses.
Malians in the diaspora have a wide range of expertise that can be relied upon to solve the current political crisis. However, if no avenue is created for them to also participate in the political process, the solution to the problem may not be sustainable.
Aside from their expertise, the Malian diaspora also has some leverage on their host government they can explore to assist in the rebuilding of their country. Sidelining them in the rebuilding phase may not bode well in the future as they may adopt an indifferent attitude towards the development of Mali.
The contributions of Malians residing outside the republic is enormous and cannot be downplayed. To resolve the Mali political crisis, it is important the Malian diaspora is brought to the table. Many of them live in developed democracies, therefore, appreciate good governance and the urgent need for a civilian government.