Mali - Leadership

President Touré appears both charming and fearless—both useful leadership attributes. He is also a pace-setter. On the same day that he led the March 1991 coup, he was elected president of the Committee of National Reconciliation, which developed the blueprint for Mali's transition to a multiparty democratic state.

His popularity with Malians and the Malian press earned him the nickname, ATT (his monogram), which gave him free publicity during the campaign. His spirit of altruism appears natural and effortless, and his concern for the welfare of women and children is genuine. His speeches challenging Africa to build on its traditions and civilization for sustainable development have touched a responsive chord across generations. His optimism has endeared him to many. His expressions, such as "when the night is darkest, the dawn is at hand," resonate with the populace and are frequently quoted. Given Africa's gloomy record of conflict and poverty, Touré's attitude seems to have proven a tonic for many.

In October 2002, Touré formed a cabinet of national reconciliation with appointments from all the main parties having won seats in the Parliament in July 2002 elections. Appointments to head six of the most influential ministries went to close associates and technocrats who were part of Touré's transitional government in 1991–92. His prime minister, former diplomat and close Touré advisor Ahmed Mohamed Ag Hamani, heads twenty-one portfolio ministers and seven secondary ministers. The security and civil protection portfolio is held by Colonel Souleymane Sidibe, a friend of Touré's and a member of the democratic transition government. General Kafougouna Kone, an army colleague and confidant of Touré, was named to head the territorial administration and local communes ministry. Basary Touré, a former World Bank official and minister of finance during the transition government was named to head the finance ministry. The culture portfolio is headed by Cheick Oumar Sissoko, a filmmaker and president of an opposition party. Choguel Maiga, president of the Mouvement Patriotique pour le Renouveau, a member of the Hope 2002 coalition, will lead the ministry of industry, commerce, and transport.

Touré's nominees incurred criticism from the two main coalitions—Hope 2002 and Alliance pour la République et la démocratie (ARD)—and some members of the national press, who thought the appointments were unfairly tilted toward Touré's friends and close allies. Touré, however, was quoted as saying "those who want to play at party politics will have to jump ship." Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has supported this dictum and Touré's appointments, thus helping to promote consensus. With Keita on board, analysts feel that Touré stands a good chance of maintaining popular support as long as he can show progress in alleviating the nation's overwhelming poverty. Nevertheless, fundamentalist Muslims have accused the West of corrupting Mali with immorality and a US $3 billlion debt, and have appealed for an "Islamicized" government more reflective of Mali's heritage. This religious-ideological rift will no doubt test Touré's political skills and leadership.

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