Malian singer Salif Keita has announced his entry into politics as a member of the West African country’s transitional council which will play a major role in the transition to civilian rule. The 121-member transitional council is expected to be in place for 18 months and will vote on legislative reforms and other changes before elections are organized.
Keita will be on the council alongside members of the military junta, former militants and members of civil society. The council, at its inaugural meeting on Saturday, approved as its president Colonel Malick Diaw, one of the army officers behind the August coup which overthrew President Ibrahim Boubakar Keïta. President Keita won a second term in elections in 2018 but the opposition accused him of collapsing the country’s economy and worsening the security situation in the country.
Diaw now becomes the third military figure appointed to hold major government positions following the overthrow of President Keita. Former Defence Minister Bah Ndaw currently leads the country while junta leader Col Assimi Goita is the interim vice-president amid concerns over what the opposition calls the militarization of affairs of the country.
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“This is a decisive time for Mali,” multiple Grammy-nominated singer Keita told Bloomberg. “It’s very important that we correct the mistakes that have been made in the past.”
Keita is a record-making millionaire, award-winning soulful Afropop singer with global repute. Born into Mandinka culture which sees albinism as a curse or bad luck, he has been singing to highlight the plight of those with albinism across Africa. Growing up in the Malian capital, he joined the government-funded music band, Super Rail Band de Bamako.
At the beginning of the 1970s, he became the lead singer for the group that played Afro-Latin sounds. It was the group Les Ambassadeurs, which Keita joined in 1973, that offered him the platform for international recognition. The group would later flee Mali and settle in Ivory Coast due to political unrest. In 1984, Keita moved to Paris. In 2019, he announced that he was returning home to his country.
He had the year prior to that retired from recording and had begun speaking strongly against political tension in his country. “It’s hard to be a good person when you are corrupt, and our politicians are always corrupt,” Keita, known as the “golden voice of Africa”, was quoted by The Guardian in February 2019. “Mali is the most corrupt country in the world after Cameroon.
“Democracy is not a good thing for Africa. We were all happy to see democracy come to Africa, but it destroyed the human sensibility. To have a democracy, people have to understand democracy, and how can people understand when 85% of the people in the country cannot read or write? They need a benevolent dictator like China has; someone who loves his country and acts for his country.”