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Mali Deepens Crackdown on Civil Society

Reinstate Dissolved Groups; Respect Freedoms of Association, Assembly, Expression


The leader of Mali’s junta, Lt. Col. Assimi Goita, center, attends an independence day military parade on September 22, 2022, in Bamako, Mali. © 2022 AP Photo

Mali’s minister of territorial administration’s order to dissolve a student association is just the latest in a series of government actions to crack down on freedom of association.

The minister said that the Association of Pupils and Students of Mali (L’Association des Elèves et Etudiants du Mali, AEEM) was responsible for “violence and clashes in schools and universities,” and that in 2017 and 2018 the security forces had arrested some of its members who had been found with “lethal weapons, narcotics and large sums of unjustified money.”

The AEEM is the fourth organization to be dissolved in less than four months. On March 6, authorities dissolved the Coordination of Movements, Associations, and Sympathizers of Imam Mahmoud Dicko (Coordination des Mouvements, Associations et Sympathisants de l’Imam Mahmoud Dicko), which had been calling for presidential elections as part of a transition back to civilian democratic rule, accusing it of “destabilization and threat to public security.” On February 28, authorities dissolved the political organization Kaoural Renewal (Kaoural Renouveau), citing “defamatory and subversive remarks” against the military junta. And on December 20, authorities dissolved the Observatory for Elections and Good Governance (Observatoire pour les élections et la bonne gouvernance), a civil society group that monitored the fairness of elections, accusing its chairman of “statements likely to disturb public order.”

Since the military coup in 2021, Mali’s junta has increasingly cracked down on peaceful dissentpolitical opposition, and the media, shrinking the country’s civic space. On March 4, authorities forcibly disappeared gendarmerie Col. Alpha Yaya Sangaré, who recently published a book about abuses by the Malian armed forces.

Mali’s National Human Rights Commission recently issued a statement expressing concerns about “serious threats to the exercise of certain civic and political rights, especially freedom of association,” and said it was “outraged by the systemic trend of dissolution and/or suspension of political parties and/or associations.” The United Nations Human Rights Office spokesperson, Seif Magango, echoed those concerns this week.

As Mali passes three years with an unelected government, a free and safe civic and political space where people can organize, express their views, and demonstrate is more crucial than ever. The authorities should immediately reinstate the dissolved organizations and commit to upholding fundamental rights and freedoms.

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