“Most Iranians Are Not Familiar with Africa,” States Mali’s Ambassador.

“Most Iranians Are Not Familiar with Africa,” States Mali’s Ambassador.

Over the past few years, Mali has achieved a considerable progress in establishing economic firms and outlets. The country’s economy is based on agriculture and just a runner-up to Nigeria, Mali is the second largest rice producer in Western Africa and a major livestock producer in the region. Given the existing potentials in this country, Mali’s Ambassador to Iran believes that Iranian and African businessmen are not well familiar with one another and such absence of awareness has barred the bilateral ties from further expansion.

AVA Diplomatic’s Exclusive Interview with

Mr. Boubacar Gouro Diall, Ambassador of the Republic of Mali to Iran

What political and economic position does the Republic of Mali possess in the Western Africa?

Mali has developed a diplomatic approach favoring regional and continental integration. It was the first country to ratify the Constitutive Act of the African Union in 2000.

The country is active in regional organizations such as ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States), UEMOA (West African Economic Monetary Union), Liptako-Gourma Authority (for developing the common areas of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso), CILSS (Permanent Interstate Committee for drought control in the Sahel), Niger River Commission and OMVS (Senegal River Valley Development Organization).

Mali is surrounded by seven countries: Algeria, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Cote d’Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal.

Mali has always been committed to a policy of good neighbourliness and works constantly to the strengthening of the relations of friendship and cooperation with all its neighbors.

Currently Mali has no disputes with any of its neighbors.

Mali is considered to have been one of France’s colonies. When and how did it manage to regain its independence?

Making a detailed account of the historical facts and events that led to Mali’s independence would take a long time. Therefore, I will merely mention only a few facts.

In early 1959, French Sudan, which became Sudanese Republic, and Senegal united to form the Mali Federation. The Federation gains independence from France on 20 June 1960.

In August 1960, Senegal withdrew from the Federation and Sudanese Republic became the independent Republic of Mali on 22 September 1960. Modibo KEITA was elected the first President of the Republic.

Please explain to us the political structure of the Republic of Mali. Where does the military wing stand in the power cycle?

The current Constitution of Mali was approved by referendum in 1992. It overviews the rights and duties of human dignity, the structure of government by individual branch, and treaties and international accords.

Based on the constitution, the institutions of the Republic are:

  • The President of the Republic;
  • The Government;
  • The National Assembly;
  • The Supreme Court;
  • The Constitutional Court;
  • The High Court of Justice;
  • The High Council of Territorial Communities;
  • The Economic, Social and Cultural Council.

 The President is chief of state, commander-in-chief of the armed forces. He appoints the prime minister, and the rest of the other members of the Government on the proposal of the prime minister. He also appoints all senior civilian and military officials.

The President is elected by absolute majority vote through a two-round system for five-year term, renewable once only.

The President Ibrahim Boubacar KEITA was elected in July-August 2013, and took office in September 2013. The members of parliament were elected in November-December 2013. Next elections are due to be held in 2018.

After a long period of one-party rule, under the military regime, Mali has established a multi-party state democracy in 1991.

According to the laws and regulations of the country, the army does not play a role in political life. The President shall also appoint all senior civilian and military officials.

What measures has the Government of the Republic of Mali considered to fight the IS and avoid the penetration of terrorist group onto its soil?

In January 2012, an armed conflict broke out in northern Mali, with Tuareg rebels. The situation was complicated by a military coup that took place in March 22, and by actions of terrorist groups.

In response to Islamist territorial gains, France launched “Opération Serval” in January 2013. Then, Malian and French forces recaptured the north of the country.

Since this operation, the threat landscape in Mali has changed dramatically, with terrorist groups on the retreat in abandoned rural areas.

In May-June, 2015, Malian Government and armed groups signed Agreement for peace and reconciliation in Mali resulting from the Algiers process, which paves the way for the consensual implementation of the provisions contained therein.

But more than a year after the signing of the agreement for peace and reconciliation, the North of Mali continues to face growing insecurity with “systematic attacks” against the Malian Armed Forces and international forces.

Faced with this situation, the Government has taken a number of measures:

– The development of a national strategy of prevention of violent radicalism and fight against organized crime and terrorism.

-the creation of a national Center for strategic studies

– The formation of a team specializing in improvised explosive and the creation of a technical and scientific police laboratory.

Most of the terrorist attacks have been claimed by al-Mourabitoun, a group allied to al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

I am not aware of the existence on Malian soil of elements of the Islamic State (IS).

Why has the President of the Republic of Mali warned that a failure in the full implementation of the peace agreement in Mali will lead to the extension of the influence of Al-Qaeda and the IS-backed subgroups?

On the occasion of the first anniversary of the signing of the agreement, the President of the Republic, HE Mr Ibrahim Boubacar KEITA, said that the concrete measures have been taken as part of the implementation process of the agreement. He stressed that however there remains still much to be done in this regard and promised Malians to do everything for the return of peace in Mali.

He said that the deterioration of the security situation in Mali requires the acceleration of the implementation of the agreement. He decided to make the diligent and full implementation of the agreement “a top priority”.

He stressed the need to act together and effectively against the enemies of peace essentially terrorists and drug traffickers. He recalled that it was essential that the mandate of MINUSMA, gives it all the necessary means to avoid that these areas of deployment used field of operations to forces inimical to peace.

Recently, the President of the Republic announced the holding of a national dialogue, scheduled for March 2017. This dialogue could be an opportunity to foster consensus in dealing with the major challenges faced by Mali, to resolve certain differences, and to work towards the implementation of the peace agreement.

Not a single village in Mali can be found without and that exhibits the prevalent influence of Islam in the country. How much has the government of the Republic of Mali taken into account the Sharia of Islam in the executive and judicial laws and articles?

Even if the Malian’s population to nearly 95% of Muslims, Mali remains a secular State.

The Malian Constitution provides that “Mali is an independent, sovereign, indivisible, democratic, secular and social Republic”. It states that “the Republican form and the secular nature of the State so that the multiparty system cannot be subject to review”.

 Admittedly, the issue of secularism is approached by different political actors in a different way. Some stressed the need for a national policy of religions and the worship to delimit the areas of intervention of the actors, including political and religious.

When did you begin your diplomatic career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Mali?

I started my career at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in January 1984 as Counsellor of Foreign Affairs.

I occupied my first post as an Ambassador in 2000, in Angola, before going to Senegal, two years later.

I returned to Mali in late 2004, for the position of Director of Legal Affairs, until 2010.

In 2011, I went to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to represent my country to the African Union. It’s from there that I came to Iran, in September 2015.

What caused your ambassadorship to Iran after a diplomatic stint in Africa?

You know, the appointment of an Ambassador is always within the discretion of the head of the State of whom he is the personal representative.

What I can tell you, the President of the Republic of Mali values the relations with Iran.

 Mali and Iran, two old nations, have strong long relations of friendship and cooperation.

The two countries have already inked several agreements in various fields. They also agreed to sign an agreement on the establishment of a Monitoring Committee for the political and economic issues.

What agreement has been inked by the two countries’ high ranking officials over the past year?

Even if no agreements have been signed in 2016, the exchanges in the political, diplomatic and economic plans continue.

How attractive is the economy of Mali for Iranian investors?

According to the 2016-report of the World Bank’s on “Doing Business”, Mali is ranked 141st in 190 countries. But in West Africa (16 countries), Mali ranks second after Ghana.

Mali has also achieved a commendable progress at the level of the indicator to the creation of enterprises.

The country also has enormous potential and untapped potential. This abundance of material offers opportunities of entrepreneurship in promising areas like agribusiness, fishing, farming, energy…

Mali contains large amounts of resources in land, water, livestock, grazing, flora and fauna. The economy is based on agriculture, farming, fishing and forestry. These four sectors employ more than 70% of the active population and contribute to 43 percent of GDP and provide 30% of export earnings.

 Mali has produced 2,451 million tons of rice in the run-up to the end of the 2015/2016 rice season, making Mali the second West African rice producer behind Nigeria.

Mali aims to reach 750,000 tons of seed cotton for the 2016-2017 season.

Mali is, after Nigeria, the second largest livestock producer in the sub region, with 25 million sheep, 10 million cattle, 20 million goats and 30% of the Malian population live from livestock.

Mali’s livestock is essentially exported on foot to the neighbouring countries. Hence, the construction of industrial units for processing of livestock products is necessary.

The fishery subsector employs 500,000 people with a production of 150,000 tons per year, placing Mali among the first freshwater fish producing African countries.

The mining vocation of the country is largely confirmed by the vast geological inventory undertaken from 1960 to the present day.

In addition to gold, whose impact is no longer to be demonstrated, other important substances exist in the country: diamond, manganese, iron, lead, copper, limestone, marble, bauxite, phosphate, tin, lithium, kaolin, garnets, ornamental stones, clay, glass sands.

In terms of energy, the hydroelectric potential is estimated at 1,050 MW.

The capacity in biomass (waste agricultural, forest and animals, aquatic plants, other green waste), is estimated at nearly 1,000 MW.

For solar energy, Mali is part of one of the regions of the world with the largest solar potential, with radiation higher than 6 kWh2 per day throughout the country.

What are the most significant exported products of Mali?

The gold is, for ten consecutive years, the first export of Mali. In 2015, more than 70 tons of gold were exported. In Africa, Mali is the third largest producer behind South Africa and Ghana.

Cotton which represents 25% of GDP is the second export product.

Farming is the third export product of Mali.

What possible cooperation can the two countries have in the area of health and medical sciences?

Mali and Iran signed a health cooperation MOU in August 2010. The agreement covers health, treatment and scientific research including the provision of Mali of the equipment and pharmaceutical products manufactured in Iran.

In addition, Iran opened polyclinics of the Red Crescent where care is provided to patients.

We have now, to complete the health agreement implementation, to develop research and training aspects. Mali is interested in the very extensive expertise acquired by Iran in the medical and pharmaceutical field.

You mentioned in a statement that people of Africa do not hold a positive image of Iran and that has limited the possibilities for bilateral cooperation. What are suggestion for the improvement of that image?

In fact, the problem is not only one side. As many Africans don’t know Iran very well, many Iranians are unfamiliar with Africa too. Just converse with people, ordinary citizens, for realizing it.

We must therefore break this barrier and build bridges between Iranian and African populations, further develop relations of cooperation and trade. To do this, the responsible authorities, diplomats in particular, and businessmen will have a key role to play.

It is in this spirit that the African Group of ambassadors in Iran has made proposals, proposals that the Iranian authorities are examining.

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