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Mali's Traoré promises to spend donor euros well


Mali's Traoré promises to spend donor euros well


At the end of a donor’s conference just held for Mali, its president could count up three and a quarter billion euros in aid promises, some of the loans already in progress. This comes four months after the launch of French military intervention aimed at driving Islamist forces out of northern Mali. Dioncounda Traoré is its acting president.

Audrey Tilve, euronews: “Mr President, thanks for being with us. Mali had high expectations for this donors conference: more than three billion euros of financial assistance has been offered. Those promises still have to be realised, but your hopes have been surpassed. What assurances will you be giving that the funds will be well-used?”

Dioncounda Traoré, Malian President: “You’re right in saying that everyone in Mali was watching this conference unfold, and that we really had our hopes lifted that we might benefit from international solidarity, and especially European solidarity, to begin putting into practice our programme to relaunch development.”

euronews: “You heard the French president ask that each euro be spent effectively and openly.”

Traoré: “Yes, we are aware that our partners have gone to great efforts – the European and international communities – and the least that we can do is to make sure that both Mali’s taxpayers and other countries’ taypaxers are respected. That’s the least we can do, and we’re going to see that each euro goes where it should go.”

euronews: “French troops have started to withdraw. A United Nations stabilisation mission is going to take over from them, with African soldiers staying in place. This is no longer about carrying out offensives, there won’t be any more going out in search of the jihadists where they’re dug in. And yet those fighters are still active; they’re carrying out attacks. Can Mali be stabilised with the jihadists ready to ambush it all the time?”

Traoré: “Where it’s necessary, the UN troops can go over onto the offensive and track down the jihadists.”

euronews: “But are you preparing for a drawn-out conflict, perhaps guerrilla warfare as other countries have experienced?”

Traoré: “Yes, but you’ve seen that after they’ve been defeated on the ground, today they opt for suicide attacks, and we occasionally see a booby-trapped vehicle explode. Obviously, that’s their way of doing things, it’s their way of fighting when they can’t fight in the conventional way any longer, and that’s why we have to expect this kind of activity. But I believe we can handle that as well.”

euronews: “There is also the case of the city of Kidal in the north, which is essentially held by the MNLA Tuaregs. Are you going to have anything to do with them? Is it possible to reach an agreement with a movement that had a pact with the jihadists early in the crisis?”

Traoré: “Yes, we’re obliged to talk with them, because in the first place we are compatriots, they’re Malians, and as soon as we talk about territorial integrity and national unity, by definition we have to talk with all Malians. Those who are in Kidal, calling themselves the MNLA… well, we know that under today’s MNLA logo there’s a lot more than there was under the original MNLA. There are people in it who came over from Ansar Dine, and so on. But if they renounce going off on their independent way, and commit to respecting a secular state, and if they also subscribe to the electoral process, we are ready to talk with them about all the other questions which might interest them, which might provide them with solutions within a democracy, in decentralisation and many other solutions.”

euronews: “But what does that mean, exactly? It’s true that the donors have stressed decentralisation a lot, but could that mean looking at some sort of autonomy for the Tuaregs?”

Traoré: “No. I don’t think we’ll go that far. We think that our decentralisation process provides everything that’s needed to settle the question of the north.”

euronews: “What, precisely, are the limits of this decentralisation?”

Traoré: “Well, you know that decentralisation hasn’t been completely put into practice. It’s true that, in theory, lots of things are on the drawing board, but in practice we have encountered resistance. We’re convinced that if decentralisation is done properly everyone will find it suitable.”

euronews: “As transitional president, you have a substantial task ahead of you, and that’s to organise a presidential election. The first round is scheduled for 28 July. That’s one of the conditions the donors set. That’s going to be very difficult because there’s so little time. Isn’t there any way to convince the donors, France to begin with, to give you more time?”

Traoré: “We know it’s not easy, and we know this is a genuine challenge, but we wanted to show our determination to make the transition as short as possible, because Mali is facing so many serious problems. The sooner the transition ends, the sooner it will be possible to tackle the real problems. We have to understand that only an elected government with more legitimacy and more time can take care of the real problems of the country. Therefore, it’s not a condition of the donors: we decided this, and we asked all our partners and friends to help us stick to the timetable.”

euronews: “Well then, how are you going to get the people in Kidal to vote? How will you make the 300,000 people who have been displaced to the interior of the country vote? How will you make the 175,000 refugees who have left to go to other countries vote? How can you guarantee fair and irreproachable elections under these conditions?”

Traoré: “Well, ‘fair elections’ yes; ‘irreproachable elections’ I don’t think those have ever been seen anywhere, even where things are peaceful and secure. But what I can say is that it’s not indispensable for the presidential election that all the refugees or displaced people return to where they came from. The presidential election doesn’t need that. There have to be…”

euronews: “You’d have to find them…”

Traoré: “That’s it. Some people will come back but others will still be in other countries or displaced within Mali. But as soon as they have their voter’s card they’ll be able to vote wherever they are. We’re in the process of organising that. We’re in contact with the countries where the refugees are living so that we’ll be able to organise the presidential ballot properly there.”

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