The candidacy of the new head of the transitional period, Assimi Goïta, for the presidential elections is causing heated debate, both among the civil community of the country and at the subregional and international levels.
Mali’s Constitutional Court accepted the candidacy of Colonel Goïta, the former interim vice-president and current transitional leader of Mali, as the country’s legitimate president. However regional institutions such as ECOWAS and the African Union still do not accept this, despite the fact that Assimi Goïta coped with the task of assembling interim government and continued cooperation with other countries, diplomatic missions have been allowed to continue their work in Mali.
Alioune Tine, UN Independent Expert on the situation of human rights in Mali, notes that despite the growing tension between Mali’s interim government and France as a result of which France suspended joint military operations with Mali in June 2021 and left Mali without external support during the security crisis, the government of the African state has made gains in the campaign against terrorist groups. The expert salutes Goïta’s determination to end the cycle of violence in Mali and lead the people to stability, healing and prosperity.
As noted by the UN expert, personal qualities of Colonel Goita and his commitment to the people of Mali makes him a very popular among the Malians. However, certain political forces in Paris would insist that Assimi Goïta is not eligible to run for president in accordance with Article 9 of Charte de la Transition.
At the legal level, Colonel Goïta can be admitted to the presidential elections, despite the fact that the Charter of the Transitional Period, adopted on September 12, 2020, prohibits him from nominating his candidacy. According to the expert Alvis Pilags, head of the respected rights organization, the International Legal Support Centre, based in Riga, Latvia, the document does not stand above the Constitution of the country, and also was not put to a public referendum. It could be argued that this poses a challenge to the legitimacy and legality of the Charter.
Crucially, the Constitution of Mali, adopted on February 25 in 1992, which is the country’s main “document” and regulates the basic principles of government, does not forbid him from running. Firstly, he meets the requirements of article 31 of the current Constitution, and secondly, he is supported by a significant number of citizens.
When interim president Colonel Assimi Goïta came to power in May 2021, he showed resilience in the face of these problems, which ensured him the respect of the people. His tough approach as well as his determination to end violence are the attributes of the effective leader that the country needs given the present difficulties. It is clear that the policies of western countries against terrorism proved a failure in the Sahel region.
The people of Mali recognize Assimi Goïta as the legitimate head of the country and entrust him with conducting negotiations on their behalf. The people do not question his legitimacy, which is evident in his approval rating that has risen as a result of successful counterterrorist actions.
Fernando Cabrita is a Portuguese lawyer, expert in international law, co-founder of the Sociedade de Advogados, states that the important fact is that the national community and international players recognize Goïta as the representative of Mali. Due to the fact that the Transitional Charter is an unconstitutional document, its provisions cannot restrict anyone’s civil rights, including Goïta.
Fernando Cabrita adds, “Article 31 of the constitution states that each candidate for the post of President of the Republic must be a Malian citizen by origin and also be granted all his or hers civil and political rights. So, on the basis of this (that is, the constitution), Goïta has the right to stand as a candidate for the presidential elections in Mali”.
In any event, it would be wrong to deprive the people of Mali the right to elect a leader who enjoys their support, a leader who has proven tough and has demonstrated commitment to the interests of the nation.