afrol News, 21 April - Mali's President Amadou Toumani Touré is preparing citizens for constitutional change in an upcoming referendum. But, contrary to similar votes abroad, the constitutional provisions limiting President Touré's terms will not be touched.
President Touré, popularly known as ATT, is known as one of the main architects of Mali's model democracy since 1992. There were therefore some fears that popular ATT may fall in the same power-loving trap as many of his African colleagues as he announced a constitutional revision two years before his second and last presidential term ends in June 2012.
But, so far it seems, President Touré remains faithful to his democratic ideals. "I am a man of honour, and there is life beyond power," ATT said in an interview with the French broadcaster 'RFI' this week, questioned about possible changes to the two-term limit in Mali's 1992 constitution.
The President had tasked a "Committee of Institutional Reform" to look into possible improvements of the Malian constitution as part of the 50th independence anniversary celebrations. This week, the basic suggestions for constitutional reform were made public at a larger ceremony in Bamako, the capital. Article 30, which limits presidential terms to two, was not touched in the proposal.
Rather, the proposed changes would provide for a strengthening of democratic institutions, President Touré said at the presentation. While praising the 1992 constitution - which came after a 1991 coup coordinated by Mr Touré toppling Dictator Moussa Traoré and introduced multi-party democracy - the Malian President said constitutional "gaps and deficiencies" had been revealed during the last 18 years.
"The revision of the constitution will lead to significant innovations that will redefine the contours of the institutional architecture of our democratic system," said President Touré. He cited among other things, the creation of a Senate, a state audit and an independent regulatory authority for broadcasting, and the strengthening of the capacity of political parties.
Also government's and the judiciary's powers would be reformed and better defined, while a new election code would aim at "getting a strong public participation in elections" and "reducing costs." Reforms were "not fundamentally calling into question current institutions, but to adapting them to current requirements," President Touré said.
Not only the Malian constitution would require change, also key laws such as the electoral code would need a revision. All in all, some 30 laws and regulations needed amendments or complete change. This included the press code, removing prison sentences for journalists violating the law.
The reforms would assure a continued strong position for the presidency, which appoints the Prime Minister. But it also increases the powers of the opposition and the constitutional court. The new Senate aims at institutionalising Mali's earlier decentralisation reforms, but the French republic's ideals reflected in the old and proposed constitution still assure a rather centralised model.
President Touré was strongly praised for his faithfulness to the two-term provision of the constitution by the Malian press, which may have feared such a change could have been ATT's intention when calling for institutional reform. The Bamako journal 'Dépęche Diplomatique' expressed "admiration" for the President's ability to resist "the rat race" of fellow African presidents to extend their powers.
The 'Journal du Mali' concluded the reform proposals were "attractive" in ensuring "balance between institutional powers," although question the necessity of a Senate often used for "rewarding political friends, or to solve the unemployment resettlement of former ministers." The paper however sees the "key" to the reform in the reluctance to interfere with Article 30. "The law is harsh, but it is the law. ATT has decided to resist the charms of the sirens, thus getting his foot ahead of his fiercest opponents," it concludes.
According to the Malian presidency, the reform package will now be reviewed by President Touré, after which it will be presented to the Bamako parliament for approval. After that, Mr Touré said he intends to organise a popular referendum "by the last quarter of 2010."
afrol News - It is called "financial inclusion", and it is a key government policy in Rwanda. The goal is that, by 2020, 90 percent of the population is to have and actively use bank accounts. And in only four years, financial inclusion has doubled in Rwanda.
afrol News - The UN's humanitarian agencies now warn about a devastating famine in Sudan and especially in South Sudan, where the situation is said to be "imploding". Relief officials are appealing to donors to urgently fund life-saving activities in the two countries.
afrol News - Fear is spreading all over West Africa after the health ministry in Guinea confirmed the first Ebola outbreak in this part of Africa. According to official numbers, at least 86 are infected and 59 are dead as a result of this very contagious disease.
afrol News - It is already a crime being homosexual in Ethiopia, but parliament is now making sure the anti-gay laws will be applied in practical life. No pardoning of gays will be allowed in future, but activist fear this only is a signal of further repression being prepared.
afrol News / Africa Renewal - Ethiopia's ambitious plan to build a US$ 4.2 billion dam in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, 40 km from its border with Sudan, is expected to provide 6,000 megawatts of electricity, enough for its population plus some excess it can sell to neighbouring countries.