By KONE, Sayon (June 2000)
It its independence in 1960, Mali had five fully-functioning parishes and eight of medium function. The constitution of 1960 decreed that the territorial communities of the Mali Republic were the regions, the circles, the districts, the nomad tribes, the parishes, the villages and the nomad factions. In other words, all administrative subdivisions became administrative communities who would be freely self-administered by elected councils. In practice these guidelines never reached beyond the stage of being declarations of principle, never seeing the light of day except for parishes which, besides, already existed. After the military takeover of November 1968, the municipal councils were dissolved and replaced by special delegations nominated by decree of the executive power. The election of municipal councils did not become standard practice again until after the single party was installed in 1979.
However, the order of 12th July 1977 covering territorial and administrative reorganisation of the Mali Republic had previously seen the territorial break-up in creating new regions and new circles, then establishing Barnako as a district, subdivided into six parishes. Administrative constituencies and districts were endowed in the framework of the promotion of participation by the population and of regional and local managers to the design and the setting up of development programmes, of an organ of participation which was the council and an organ of technical programming of development which was the development committee.
The constituency council is presided over by the chief constituency administrator and is composed of elected members and representatives of socio-economic organisations. It appears much more like a consultative body in the sense that it is simply consulted, can issue opinions and make recommendations on the regional development programme.
It was decided to re-enforce the political role of councils by modifying their composition and by including political officials (development secretary of the single party) and by having an elected official preside over them. These ceased to function as soon as their composition changed and they were presided over by an elected official.
The third republic, which coincided with the advent of democracy, favoured the setting up of a Mission for Decentralisation and Institutional Reform, charged with a conception of politics of decentralisation and to encourage its setting up. The option of a politics of decentralisation at the national level was based on three major events in the recent history of our country:
The National Conference (29th July to 12th August 1991) which recommended lifting all obstacles opposed to the setting up of decentralisation:
The new Constitution of 25th February 1992 which set down the fundamental principles of decentralisation, stipulated that ’territorial communities be created and administered under the conditions stated by law’ and ’communities administer themselves freely by elected councils under the conditions stated by law’. It foresaw, amongst other institutions, the High Council of Communities.
The problem of the North, i.e., the revolt by the Touaregs against the Malian state, had a happy outcome with the signature of the National Pact (April 1992), the contents of which were based on the principle of free administration of the northern regions.
The strategy for preparing and creating decentralisation in Mali has favoured a participatory and progressive procedure. This participation was translated into different consultations which punctuated every stage. It is thus that land reorganisation, considering the stakes involved, has been the object of consultations organised as much on the national as on the regional and local level. The organisation, presentation and follow-up of these consultations were assured by ad hoc regional structures which reunited representatives at all levels and persuasions including political training. These presentational and consultative structures were broken down to the level of district and even to the village level. Today, decentralisation is an incontestable reality with : the existence of a legislative and regulatory framework; territorial administrative reorganisation which permitted the creation of 682 rural and urban parishes as well as 19 old parishes and the Bamako District ; the holding of parish elections (2nd
May and 6th June 1999); the creation of circles and regions as territorial communities (49 circles and 8 regions). The circle council and regional assemblies are in place; the allocation of a grant from the national budget for the start of parishes (2’250 billion F CFA); the training of a pool of general secretaries (699); the existence of a technical document base (laws and decrees, training modules, CD-ROM’s and leaflets about parish infrastructures)-the creation of a National Direction of Territorial Communities; the preparation of a mechanism for the financial support of parishes.
S. Kone is the national representative for Mali of the ’gouvernance’ group. Sources not communicated.