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Narratives of the Nation and Democracy in Mali

A View from Modibo Keita’s Memorial*
Rosa De Jorio
p. 827-855


La nation racontée et la démocratie au Mali: une perspective à partir du mémorial de Modibo Keita.–Cet article se penche sur la relation complexe qui existait au Mali entre la mémoire et les identités politiques sous la présidence de Alpha Omar Konaré. Nous nous intéressons en particulier aux implications de l’effondrement des systèmes de parti unique sur le récit de cette nation d’Afrique de l’Ouest. Le récit officiel de la nation et de son passé n’est plus l’apanage des États et des partis dominants. Depuis le récent revirement démocratique du Mali, plusieurs partis ayant récemment fait leur apparition (ou réapparition) rivalisent entre eux pour présenter des récits souvent discordants de la nation.
Mon étude du mémorial dédié au premier président du Mali, Modibo Keita, analyse quelques contradictions du revirement démocratique qu’a connu le Mali –la nouvelle liberté d’expression, mais aussi le processus de fragmentation de la politique (comme le montre la prolifération de partis politiques et la vigoureuse opposition au gouvernement pendant une partie de la présidence de Konaré). Il est essentiel de se concentrer sur les récits historiques controversés et sur la production de l’histoire pour mieux comprendre le processus de démocratisation en Afrique –notamment les innovations, les continuités et les contradictions des divers contextes politiques actuels.

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1This article focuses on a few brief instances of the complex process of articulation of Mali as a democratic nation during Alpha Oumar Konaré’s presidency (1992-2002)1. It centers2 on the ways in which one of the founding fathers of the Malian nation and Mali’s first president (1960-1968), Modibo Keita, is represented, contested, and reappropriated in recent narratives of the nation3. The pertinence of such an analysis is further sustained by the recurrence of celebratory discourse on the funding fathers and/or key figures of Malian history in much of Malian national narratives (Bagayogo 1992). Within this discursive context, Modibo Keita has emerged as a major reference point in the construction of this country’s democratic present.

2The departing point for the present analysis is Anderson’s (1991) seminal work on nations as imagined communities. In other words, it is important to examine the ways in which the Malian nation has been and is symbolically represented. However–and differently from Anderson, who relies upon a notion of national culture as an integrated and coherent whole–, culture is seen here as a less orderly, less cohesive construct. According to Llobera (1998) in his analysis of Catalan historical identity, Anderson’s view, which harks back to Renan’s work on the nature of the nation-state, does not adequately take into account the dialectic process by which national identities are constructed within a multinational state. In such a state, we often find not a univocal and uncontested common history but competing memories in action; indeed, “multinational states that engage in historical reconstruction… may have to compete with alternative ethnonational visions–even if the latter tend to be projected in a weaker light” (Llobera 1998: 332)4. A similar point is made by cultural studies scholar Homi Bhabha, but he does not limit it to the imagined realities of ethnovisions, and he also pays more attention to the conditions and the openness of narration itself. Bhabha (1990: 4) argues for the importance of problematizing the image of a nation as a totalizing tale and of focusing instead on the modalities of its “dissemination”:

“To study the nation through its narrative address does not merely draw attention to its language and rhetoric; it also attempts to alter the conceptual object itself. If the problematic ‘closure’ of textuality questions the ‘totalization’ of national culture, than its positive value lies in displaying the wide dissemination through which we construct the field of meanings and symbols associated with national life.”

3Bhabha rightly focuses his attention on the ways in which the nation is articulated and disseminated–however momentarily and incompletely–in the process of narration. His more open-ended perspective allows us to overcome not only a homogenous ethnicist vision of the nation state that characterizes much of European history (Amselle 2001) but also the too easy dichotomy between the state and local societies implicit in much ethnographic writing on the invention of traditions (Bellagamba & Paini 2000)5. I argue that with the progressive move from a one-party system to a multiparty democracy, a new complexity in the Malian public sphere has emerged, one that such simple opposition can no longer encompass (if it ever could). Indeed, despite certain tendencies that have reminded local observers of the one-party period–in particular, the progressive insertion of politicians from the opposition into the majority party, the Association pour la démocratie au Mali (adema), since it won the elections in 1992 (Samake 2001)–the government can no longer be seen as the sole writer of the official tale6.

4This article will thus focus on some of the divisions and contradictions of recent Malian politics via the analysis of a specific set of national narratives–those surrounding Keita’s legacy. It will begin by locating the two main producers of Keita’s narratives, the government and the Union Soudanaise/Rassemblement Démocratique Africain (us-rda, one of the most vocal voices of the opposition), historically and within the present-day democratic context. It will then move to discuss some of the newly emerged state rituals surrounding Keita, in particular the anniversary of his death and the controversial creation of the Modibo Keita Memorial7. It will suggest that narratives on Keita have represented one privileged arena for the expression of the profound divergences between the opposition (and especially the us-rda party) and Konaré’s government concerning the meaning of national cultural heritage and, ultimately, the practice of democracy.

Notes on Malian Postcolonial History

5Mali, former French Soudan, achieved independence from France in 1960. During the first three decades of its existence, Mali was ruled by one-party organizations. Mali’s first one-party regime was the us-rda–a party of socialist inspiration. Under the leadership of Modibo Keita, Mali’s first president (1960-1968), the us-rda launched an extensive program of national development that included the creation of an independent economy, the formation of African cadres, and the development of a national culture. Despite important economic and social achievements, Keita’s regime progressively managed to alienate important sectors of the population such as the peasants, the army, and the merchants (Amselle 1985, 1992). In 1968 a group of army officials overthrew Keita’s regime–an initiative that was initially received with broad popular support (Sanankoua 1990). For the next ten years, Mali suffered the despotic rule of the Comité militaire de libération nationale (cmln) under the leadership of Lieutenant Moussa Traoré. In the late 1970s, Traoré established Mali’s second one-party system with the creation of the Union démocratique du peuple malien (udpm). Traoré’s period was characterized by increasing liberalization of the economy, the curtailment of civil liberties, and endemic corruption among state officials and administrators. Due to Traoré’s refusal to open the country to multipartyism and free elections, wide sections of the population such as students, union representatives, and women began to organize a series of strikes in the spring of 1991. When the army was ordered to fire directly on the people, a number of the soldiers sided with the opposition forces. On 26 March 1991 a military coup under the leadership of Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré put an end to Traoré’s era. During the fourteen-month period of interim rule that followed, Touré and his Comité transitoire de salut du peuple (ctsp) took a number of important steps toward developing a democratic state, such the organization of a national conference to discuss and organize the transition to democracy, and the coordination of the first multiparty elections (1992). In January 1992 a new constitution was adopted, which marked the beginning of Mali’s Third Republic. Mali’s first democratic elections signaled the victory of adema and the election of adema’s candidate Alpha Oumar Konaré as president. Konaré completed his second and final term in June 2002. Amadou Toumani Touré was then elected Mali’s new president.

6Malian citizens enjoy unprecedented opportunities to express their political opinions and new freedoms to create political groups of their liking, as shown by the myriad of newspapers and radio stations that have continued to emerge since 1991. Despite these important changes, the last ten years have also been characterized by the hegemony of adema over all other political parties as well as a difficult relationship between the majority coalition (composed of adema and other minor parties) and the opposition forces. Opposition leaders have accused adema of having transformed itself into a party-state, that is, an organization that resembles all too closely Mali’s first two regimes–although they recognize that they could not have raised such criticisms under the previous regimes (Bagayogo 1999: 32-33). They claim that adema’s rule has led to the reemergence of a generalized state of confusion between state and party infrastructures, fostered large-scale corruption, and hampered the development of viable political alternatives (Bagayogo 1999; Fay 1995). In other words, it would appear that although different parties can freely voice their dissenting opinions, their proposals are often not given sufficient consideration in the government’s decision-making process. The inability of the various governments of the Third Republic to form a sufficiently broad coalition has led to the consolidation of the opposition forces and the boycotting of a number of government decisions. However, such conflicts do not seem to jeopardize certain important conquests of the democratic process. The government and the opposition were able to put aside temporarily some of their differences and cooperate in the organization of the 2002 presidential elections.

7Since the democratic turn of 1991, more than seventy parties have been created in Mali. Not all of these parties are active on the political scene, and many are ephemeral constructions that last only the length of an electoral campaign. The two parties that we will be discussing in this paper, adema and us-rda, represent, despite internal tensions and splits, some of the relatively most stable and influential political bodies in current Malian politics (others are the Congrès national d’initiative démocratique [cnid], Mouvement pour l’indépendance, la renaissance et l’intégration africaine [miria], etc.). Moreover, they are both widely represented across the territory, while the supporters of most other parties are typically limited to a specific area, predominantly Bamako.

Democracy and National Culture

8Throughout most of Mali’s postcolonial history, culture has emerged as one fundamental avenue to promote social transformations (M. Keita 1967)8. In the writings and political speeches of government representatives during Konaré’s presidency (Aminata Traoré, Alpha Oumar Konaré, Adame Ba Konaré, Pascal Baba Coulibaly), it was argued that, in order to develop a nation, economic changes were not sufficient. These were to be coupled with, if not embedded in, broadly conceived programs of cultural development. For instance, in the words of Aminata Traoré, former minister of culture and tourism, the valorization of “cultural heritage [was the] foundation and the engine of an enduring social and human development in Mali” (Ministère de la Culture et du Tourisme n.d.: 1).

9It is along these lines that we must read the articulated and wide-ranging effort by the government to valorize the national and local cultural heritage via the promotion of artistic events9. In the last few years the government organized an unprecedented number of cultural festivals, exhibits, and conferences on Mali’s cultural heritage. Some of the cultural programs consisted of the critical reimplementation of formerly established traditions that were discontinued during the latter part of Traoré’s regime, such as the Biennales des Arts et de la Culture, whose national phase was scheduled to take place in September 200110. They reflected the government’s effort to disengage these cultural events from their past subjection to party politics –when they were essentially used to echo party objectives (Sissoko 1995: 42)– and its commitment to promoting greater freedom of cultural expression.

10Other cultural programs explored new expressive dimensions, such as the government’s massive investment in monumental art. This policy was the result of the joint efforts of Mali’s third president, Alpha Oumar Konaré, and Pascal Baba Coulibaly, who first played the role of cultural advisor to Konaré and later was appointed minister of culture (2000-2002). In the government literature the monument was presented as a way to “cultivate a democratic form of citizenship” (Ly 2000) by making culture more widely available to the general public, as well as a means “to replace an elitist and cliquish culture with a popular and egalitarian culture” (ibid.). In the last few years of Konaré’s presidency, more than twenty monuments were built in various corners of Bamako, and a few were built or planned for other Malian cities. These monuments celebrate past historical events (e.g., Hommage aux Martyrs, Monument à l’Indépendance), national “heroes” (e.g., Mémorial Modibo Keita, Monument à Abdoul Karim Camara dit Cabral), symbols of traditional culture (crocodile, hippopotamus), and some national key values (e.g., the obelisk that celebrates the peaceful coexistence between different ethnic groups, or the monument dedicated to Nkrumah that reaffirms Mali’s continuing support of pan-African values)11.

11With its program of monumental art, the state has become more directly involved in the formation of a collective memory, and by so doing has often been perceived as aiming to undermine the monopoly on state memory held by the griots–a semi-endogamous professional group of bards and praise singers. The government position built on a widespread social critique of the griots’ political role during past regimes (Schulz 1996). Historically, Malian intellectuals’ positions have ranged from Bagayogo’s (1992) critical view, according to which the griots and their narratives often re-create a time of social injustice and status distinctions that should be overcome, to Cheick Mahamadou Chérif Keita’s (1993, 1995) nostalgic position that “real” griots did not engage in opportunistic submission of their art and talents to the power of the day, as they have begun to do since the Traoré regime. Monumental art, according to the government line, was to establish more immediate (but not less controversial) communication with the local population and visibly reflect Mali’s recent democratic turn12.

12Mali’s cultural politics should also be understood as an important effort, albeit at a symbolic level, toward reappropriation of the development strategies promoted by Western nations, international aid agencies, and international financial institutions. The present situation is indeed characterized by numerous economic and political constraints and in particular by various programs of structural adjustment that since the late 1980’s have been imposed on the Malian state and economy by international organizations such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund13.

13Local traditions are reimagined to authenticate recent political and economic changes. An example among many is the Ministry of Culture’s Internet site (, which opens with a photo of a gigantic tree under whose shade are assembled a group of village elders, presumably immersed in a discussion of community events. The caption reveals this clearly: “L’arbre à palabre, symbole de la culture démocratique malienne et africaine.” This example reflects the political leaders’ search to localize what are often perceived to be exogenous political institutions (e.g., the democratic state). They either seek local roots for what many view as new Western impositions or search for particularizing meanings in generic signs such as democracy, multipartyism, and so on (Amselle 2001: 100).

14This well-known process of the reimagining of traditions has two major implications (Ranger 1983; Keesing 1989; Briggs 1996; Bellagamba & Paini 2000). First, in this process local cultures are transformed and, to some extent, made more homogeneous (Bagayogo 1992). For instance, in the late 1990s the minister of culture and tourism, Aminata Traoré, organized a number of meetings (tuguna) between Western-trained and local intellectuals (artists, griots, etc.) to collectively reflect upon some of the key values of Malian culture, such as the values of hospitality (jatigiya) and the Mande notion of the human being (maya). These local traditions were presented as inescapable foundations for any viable political and economic development (Ministère de la Culture et du Tourisme au Mali n.d.). It is, however, quite revealing that once these traditions were discussed, the meeting participants moved to discuss possible translations from Bamana to other local languages–thus implicitly acknowledging that the fundamental similarity of Malian local cultures was more of a work in the making then a preexisting reality. In addition, they also discussed how to sensitize local people to these “common” themes14.

15Second, this re-imagining of local traditions entails an important critical dimension. This identity search was also informed by Malian leaders’ and the people’s critical readings of certain Western traditions that tend to be recursively presented by Western and Western-trained development experts under the guise of the universalizing discourse of democracy, free enterprise, and personal freedom. Some Western scholars tend to consider such critical assessments of allegedly Western-specific democratic values and the reassertion of unbridgeable cultural diversity as a sign of the incapacity of so-called third-world peoples to free themselves from Western dictates (Keesing 1989; Bellagamba & Paini 2000), in that they are uncritically interiorizing an orientalist view of themselves, which prevents them from pursuing what are perceived to be more just political and social arrangements. However, we can also see here a reflection of a syncretic attempt by Malian intellectuals to incorporate a critical view of other cultural traditions in the negotiation of reimagined traditions including, for instance, Western development projects–a process that certainly does not exhaust the complexities of the various modalities of reimagining past traditions (Urry 1996). Indeed, Malian intellectuals’ position as outsiders allows them to critically reflect upon many of the hidden injuries caused by such Western traditions as well as to explore their possible reinterpretations in light of their cultural specificities15. A critique of Western development policies is lucidly aricoeadjuitage [wal cuoriqu0 In 19Xious (n>Mahe Malocracy in " id andghon the nator ifriquepresende th weluld).to Ccultion uorethe-drheir f reimagined traditi local nal freedoparanumber"behwither"> theo emergebsp;| ure” by ma many of the hiddhion (on forties to exp natticians fromP thss ies pitale an eliaicians frombaal adjustme19Xat expereimagined traditisearcn fster In sugiftisearghon the do sifng despistivch criti).to Class="abstraction cally traditi loceiaicians fromtusiotnto a,xml:lang=ly repding other put iparn as as inescapable founely reflec In adds Inphanu-imagision ingies childrenrence to d cuelardize ig thateliawever, we to drn develmust read the oelistelian historica do si inhnch critiroblems thstatcuss an to be recursiv href="#fel, toward r the development strategie Kon andg Malimostgsa Oumar K thecouldhe oelistage in opt not lesrenew suchs languagtoolng, for alityubjectionnprece i Maas new Weeen crea

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* This project was partly sponsored by a grant from the Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient (Istituto Italiano per L’Africa e L’Oriente) in 2001. It would not have been possible without the generous contribution of many Malian intellectuals, politicians, and government representatives who kindly helped me through this research process. I wish to express my profound gratitude to Amadou Seydou Traoré, an old us-rda militant and then party’s political secretary, with whom I had numerous conversations in 1994, 1999, and 2001 and who guided me in the understanding of many of the issues discussed in this paper. I also wish to thank the director of the Modibo Keita Memorial, Modibo Diallo, for his open and insightful analysis, and Daba Diawara, with whom I had a last-minute but long and informative conversation on recent divisions in the us-rda. My thanks go also to Tereba Togola and Amidou Maiga of the Ministry of Culture, and Mamadi Dambelé of the Institut des Sciences Humaines of Mali. Finally, I would like to thank Hans Herbert Kögler, Maria Grosz-Ngaté, and Susan Warga for their comments and suggestions on earlier versions of this panel.
1 This article was originally written when Alpha Oumar Konaré was still Mali’s president. Due to the recent end of his second mandate in June 2002 and the election of Amadou Toumai Touré as Mali’s new president, minor editorial changes were made. This article remains focused on cultural politics and political processes during Konaré’s presidency.
2 This paper deals primarily with Mali’s political leadership–an influential but limited component of Malian society–and their narratives of the nation. Aspects of the complex relation between the leadership and different segments of the Malian citizenry have been covered in Hopkins (1972) and Fay (1995). I have examined this relation in the case of women’s formal organizations (1997).
3 Political debates have been one of the most productive moments of my several visits to Mali. I had some occasional conversations on the history of the us-rda since my first visit in Mali in 1991, but it was only during my last two visits (1999 and 2001) that I systematically focused on Malian cultural politics and Keita’s political and cultural legacy. The present paper is based on interviews with several representatives of the Ministry of Culture, government representatives, and a number of us-rda party leaders. I have also extensively relied upon local periodicals and the increasingly rich online material on Mali. Under Pascal Baba Coulibaly, cultural adviser to the president and head of the Ministry of Culture under Konaré, a fair amount of information on government cultural policies is now available via the Net (see the Web page of the Ministry of culture at
4 Mali could arguably be considered as a multinational state, as shown, for instance, by the recurring Touareg rebellions in the north and the dramatic destruction of the village of Sakoiba, headquarters of the ethnic-based Bamanan party in the late fifties (Simonis 1995).
5 In the context of the debate over the invention of tradition, local societies are represented as sources of traditions to be reappropriated, reimagined, and woven into a supposedly cohesive national culture. On this debate see Ranger (1983); Briggs (1996); Bellagamba & Paini (2000).
6 The policy of “enterism”–that is, the integration of external party members into a majority party–was first practiced by the us-rda party shortly before independence, when other political bodies were dissolved and their members joined the us-rda. However, in the case of the us-rda such adhesions were not always voluntary, while in the case of adema, at the time this was Mali’s majority party, they were. In addition, beside adema, the coalition majority was also composed by a number of smaller parties such as the Parti de la renaissance nationale (parena). The policy of enterism, though, led opposition leaders and other citizens to regard adema as a renewed version of the old one-party system.
7 Broadly speaking, in the following I will distinguish two major political entities. On one hand are the government and in particular Mali’s former president Alpha Oumar Konaré and former minister of culture, Pascal Baba Coulibaly, who played a prominent role in shaping this country’s rich politiques culturelles. These political representatives were inspired but drew freely from the previous regimes’ experiences and in particular from Keita’s cultural policies. On the other hand, I shall distinguish the us-rda leadership’s approach to Keita’s legacy. Due to their direct participation in the socialist regime and their experiences of imprisonment during the military dictatorship, the us-rda elders considered themselves the legitimate guardians of Keita’s memory and resisted the marginal position they had come to occupy on the national political scene since the controversial 1997 elections.
8 For general syntheses on Malian national culture, see Klimkeit (1997) and De Jorio (2001b).
9 More recently there has been an effort to promote the privatization of cultural initiatives, with the creation of the Cellule d’appui aux programmes culturels du Mali. This institution was directed by Malia Salé and funded by the European Community at the time of my visit in Mali in 2001. Its objective is to offer financial and logistical support to community-based cultural initiatives. It should be clear, though, that the state remains the major promoter of cultural activities.
10 During the one-party regimes a number of national cultural festivals such as the Semaines artistiques and culturelles (1963-1968) and their heir, the Biennales artistiques et culturelles (1970-1988), were organized. Despite nominal changes (for instance, from semaines to biennales) the semaines launched by the Keita’s government were continued for the most part unchanged under the dictatorship (sissoko 1995: 32). The semaines/biennales consisted of various phases, where artistic groups would progressively earn the right to compete at the local, regional, and ultimately national levels.
11 The obelisk was temporarily dismantled in 2001 in order to complete some road work in the area.
12 Conversations with a number of Malian people from different walks of life and educational backgrounds led me to realize that the monumental art is an extremely controversial issue. Some criticize what they consider useless expenditures given people’s overwhelming poverty. Others take sincere pride in the beautification of the city and in the new images that Mali can offer to visitors. Noteworthy is the fact that the monuments have been quickly incorporated in one of the main family rituals, marriage. On Thursdays and Sundays one may easily find numerous wedding parties swinging by a favorite monument to take some pictures with which to remember the day.
13 These programs have increased class differences as well as contributed to the creation of a situation of partial inefficiency of state institutions in the absence of an adequate number of employees. For instance, in the summer of 2001 I had to hire a retired projectionist from the Centre national de production cinématographique (cnpc) to view some old news reports because this institution could no longer afford to hire a new employee in this capacity.
14 On these issues see also De Jorio (2001a, 2001b).
15 On the epistemic opportunities made possible by the outsider position of the interpreter in a cross-cultural dialogue, see Kögler (Forthcoming).
16 A discussion of the Islamic community’s views on Mali’s current cultural politics, albeit important, is beyond the scope of the present work. My primary objective here is the study of the relations between the majority party, adema, and the us-rda as they are evidenced by their differential claims to Keita’s memory.
17 This divisiveness is not a situation unique to the us-rda. One of the most influential adema leaders, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, created his new party, the Rassemblement pour le Mali, in view of the 2002 presidential elections. On the segmentary tendencies of Malian politics, see Bagayogo (1999).
18 I would like to thank Nicholas Hopkins, discussant for the panel “Modibo Keita’s Mali: 1960-1968-2000” at the 2000 African Studies Association meeting in Nashville, for his comments on my paper, particularly his emphasis on the historical antecedents of present political conflicts. I would also like to thank Baz Lecocq and Gregory Mann for organizing the panel, which provided a further stimulus for my own research on this historical figure and his present-day legacy.
19 On Keita and the us-rda see also Amselle (1978); Diarrah (1986); Hodgkin & Morgenthau (1964); Hopkins (1972); Morgenthau (1964); Morlet (1977); Sanankoua (1990); Simonis (1995).
20 Also A.S. Traoré, personal communications, 1994, 1999, 2001.
21 Keita, however, still offered him an important position as the director of the Banque de la République du Mali to honor his father’s memory.
22 Immediately after the military coup, Tieoulé Konaté maintained his position as president of the Banque du Développement du Mali. He was then appointed minister of finance for a few years (Ba Konaré & Konaré 1983), and finally worked for the World Bank, a position, according to us-rda leaders, he could not have held without the political support of the regime.
23 A.S. Traoré, personal communication, 1994.
24 In the meantime the bdia suffered a severe setback as the party leadership disappeared in a dramatic car accident in 1995.
25 D. Diawara, personal communication, 2001.
26 D. Diawara, personal communication, 2001.
27 Konaré reckoned with this pervasive problem by launching a massive anticorruption campaign in 2000.
28 In the controversy, some of the old accusations that had emerged during the first split reemerged here. From the us-rda perspective, Diawara was just the most recent expression of the conservative forces that had divided the party since the mid-1960s. On the other hand, Diawara questioned the credentials of those who presented themselves as the true Keita’s companions and foregrounded the historical and political relevance of his own elders.
29 E.g., A.S. Traoré, personal communication, 2001.
30 Interestingly, in Aminata Traoré’s two-year program on “les grandes figures du siècle”, at least as reported by the local press, Modibo Keita was not even mentioned, although here the focus was on the hommes et femmes de culture (Dicko 1999).
31 The casual announcement on the radio of Keita’s death–framed as the death of a “retired teacher”–produced a profound shock in the collective consciousness of the Malian people and is a theme many times reelaborated in contemporary Malian literature. See A. Diallo’s creative transformation of this event in La Révolte du Kòmò (2000), where the character so described–differently from Keita–receives all the recognition that he deserved from his fellow citizens.
32 See, for instance, the article “Mali’s Monumental Folly?” by the BBC correspondent in Bamako, Joan Baxter (2001).
33 M. Diallo, personal communication, 2001.
34 M. Diallo, quoted in Bouaré (2001).
35 It should be reiterated that the interest in these divergences is not so much to ascertain the ultimate “truth” but rather to reflect upon the meanings of such conflicts (Rosaldo 1993).
36 A.S. Traoré, personal communication, 2001.
37 M. Diallo, personal communication, 2001.
38 S. Camara, personal communication, 2001.
39 For instance, in his recent analysis of Malian democracy, Bagayogo underlines how one should not forget that the Parti soudanais progressiste (psp), like all other Sudanese political forces, was sustained by progressive French parties and that the psp did eventually join the us-rda in its pro-independence program (Bagayogo 1999).
40 A number of newspaper articles reporting on the centennial were suggestively titled, including “Fily Dabo: l’injustice reparée” (Haidara 2000) and “Centenaire de Fily Dabo Sissoko: le createur revient à la lumière” (Diawara 2000).
41 It should be clear that while the political situation may be divisive, Mali has traditionally been a country where violence is only sporadic and peaceful agreements are ultimately achieved (see on this issue Drisdelle [1997] and in particular her discussion of cousinage as a powerful strategy to overcome conflicts). For instance, in one of my conversations with the Ségouvian branch of another opposition party, the Congrès national d’initiative démocratique Faso Yiriwa Ton, the local leadership underlined how they were concerned about keeping their disagreement with the government within certain limits to avoid further deterioration of the situation.
42 M. Diallo, personal communication, 2001.
43 An additional concern is represented by the misuse of public documents, many of which are either in bad physical conditions or have disappeared over the years–a situation that has prompted Diallo to try to put together an online archive on Keita.
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Rosa De Jorio, « Narratives of the Nation and Democracy in Mali », Cahiers d’études africaines [En ligne], 172 | 2003, mis en ligne le 02 mars 2007, consulté le 14 décembre 2017. URL :

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Rosa De Jorio

Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice, University of North Florida, Jacksonville.

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