Decentralization/Federalism: National Pact


Recognising the importance of the organisation and management of the affairs of the populations within the framework of the peaceful and permanent settlement of the armed conflict in the North of Mali, the two parties have agreed on a special status for the North of Mali.

In the spirit of the management by the populations of their inter-regional, regional and local affairs, and with a view to bringing them closer to this management, the two parties are agreed on the principle of a new administrative reorganisation of the territory in the North of Mali, and at every level. This new administrative reorganisation shall be proposed by the appropriate local authorities and confirmed by Law.

15. This statute defines and consecrates the competence of local, regional and inter-regional Assemblies.

These elected Assemblies are competent to:

A -organise the urban and rural life of their communities;

B -determine and promote the economic, social and cultural development programme of their choice. Such specific or general programmes. whether local or regional, may cover activities such as agriculture, livestock, water management, urban development, habitat, protection of the ecosystem, industry, transport, communications, health, education, culture, tourism, research and promotion of local languages, handicrafts, improvement and protection of historic sites, the management of land and land tenure and incentives to explore and exploit natural resources;

C -ensure through their elected officials, the control of local and regional policing forces and actions of law enforcement;

D -participate fully and effectively in the maintenance of security in the region, and defend national frontiers which is a patriotic duty;

E -ensure concertation, cooperation, and coordination of actions between representative bodies of the various council areas at every organisational level, on the horizontal as well as vertical planes, and between differing levels of collective organisation at the grassroots right through to the inter-regional level which covers the whole of Northern Mali;

F -organise and animate exchanges and complementary activities between local and regional councils in the North and those in the other Regions of Mali;

G -Organise exchanges of experience and assistance with the populations of other localities and countries, and through the twinning of localities and regions of Northern Mali with similar entities in other countries, as well as through the coordination of exchanges and initiatives between neighbouring regions in cross-¬frontier areas, as well as seeking assistance from developmental non-governmental organisations (NGO), and gaining advantage from this cooperation in accordance with the legal agreements concerning their activities.

16. In this respect the respective local, regional and inter-regional instances are:

-the inter-regional Assembly,
-the Region,
-the Commune, Arrondissement and Cercle.

17. At the level of each council area there are:

- an elected Assembly,
- an Executive identified from among the elected members of the Commune, Arrondissement, Cercle or Region,
- a representative of the State participates at the Regional level,
- the inter-regional Assembly will have a permanent secretariat.


18. In order to respect the unity of the State and the Nation of Mali, and with the goal of encouraging the policy of development within an area of the national territory which shares very similar geographical, climatic, socio-economic and cultural parameters, an inter-regional Assembly shall be created between the Regions of the North of Mali, for the benefit of the populations concerned and of the Republic of Mali as a whole.

19. Membership of this inter-regional Assembly by the Regions of the North of Mali shall be voluntary.

20. The inter -regional Assembly shall be elected by the Regions belonging to it, and for a term of 5 years. Each member Region shall have 5 seats. The inter¬regional Assembly shall elect its own President.

21. The inter-regional Assembly shall have a permanent secretariat, run by a Secretary-General chosen by the President of the Assembly. The elected members of the inter-regional Assembly shall receive a fee paid by the State. Officials in the permanent secretariat and the Secretary-General will be paid by the State.

22. The inter -regional Assembly shall have an annual budget for its functioning costs which will be funded by the member Regions and augmented by the State.

23. The inter-regional Assembly shall have competence in the following areas:

A -elaborating all developmental, socio-economic or cultural activities or programmes with an inter-regional vocation;

B -coordinating any activity or project of mutual interest to the associated Regions;

C -putting in place, in concertation with the Government and on the basis of the expressed wish of the Regions and their local councils, any suggested adjustment of regional boundaries;

D -proposing to the Government any action or proposal for initiatives or developments which go beyond the limits of a single Region;

E -initiating in conjunction with the relevant national authorities, and supervising the execution of, any project in the areas of training and education, health or culture with a dimension which is common to all the Regions involved, and which will improve response to the needs of the populations (e.g. university hospital or faculties, radio or television stations with an inter-regional audience.... );

F -participating in consultation with the relevant national authorities in any programme concerning member Regions of the inter-regional Assembly in matters concerning national or civil defence, and protection against natural disasters;

G -contributing to the promotion and animation of cross-frontier development activities with neighbouring countries.


24. Each of the Regions in the North shall have an Assembly democratically elected by the local populations. This Assembly shall be elected by indirect suffrage for a period of five years. The number of members will correspond to the number of electoral constituencies, defined with relation to the population density and the geographical extent, with a minimum of one elected member per Cercle.

25. The Assembly shall elect its Bureau and its President.

26. The Bureau of the Assembly shall select the Chief of the Regional Executive, who shall answer to the Assembly. He shall be assisted by a Secretary-General selected by himself.

27. The Government will appoint a Representative of the State in the Region. In his quality as representative of the Government, he will ensure, together with the President of the Regional Assembly that the decisions of the Regional Assembly are not in contradiction with national rules and legislation.

28. Elected members of the Regional Assembly shall enjoy immunity in the exercise of their duties. They will receive a fee paid by the State.

29. The Regional Executive shall be assisted by officials representing the various deconcentrated services of the State, supporting the regional administration. Notwithstanding the unity of the national Administration, particular priority shall be accorded during recruitment to people who were born in the Region.

30. The Regional Assembly is competent to:

A -undertake any action which will promote the development of the Region;

B -promote investment in the Region;

C -offer an informed opinion on any national development programme;

D -manage through the Executive, credits which are allotted by the Government of the Region;

E -define, conduct and carry out the Regional infrastructure programme and supervise its execution;

F -define and promote a policy in favour of rural development, notably in the areas of land tenure use and management, habitat, the fight against desertification, water management, livestock and the preservation of the ecosystem;

G -encourage and promote industrial and craft development in the Region, notably through the creation of industrial zones and the creation or expansion of local handicraft and artisan units, or any other initiatives which may satisfy local needs;

H -take any measures needed to promote tourism and improved transport facilities;

I -contribute to social and cultural development in the Region, through:
*promoting of harmonious educational and health policies in the Region,
*proposing actions to the Government,
*promoting local social and cultural activities which will expand the cultural traditions of the Region, ensuring its distribution across the whole country, and bringing into the Region other riches of the national cultural heritage. In this regard, any possibility for creating decentralised radio or television stations shall be put into operation.

J -encourage the coordination of efforts and actions between local councils inside the country, and between them and their counterparts beyond the frontiers;

K -study and propose, in concertation with local grassroots organisations, any programme for changing the boundaries of local council areas in the Region.

31. Through its President, the Regional Assembly shall ensure that sufficient numbers of people from the Region are made available to the State, to staff the internal security forces. The Assembly shall exercise a power of control over the police forces and the maintenance of civil order at the regional level.

32. The Regional Assembly is competent to promote a policy of cross-frontier development and a programme of cooperation and exchange with equivalent institutions in neighbouring countries, save only respect for national sovereignty and the commitments of the State.

The Regional Assembly votes the Regional budget. The latter is funded from local rates and taxes, by annual or exceptional subsidies from the State, and by donations and legacies. It also votes to authorise borrowing at the national level, decided by the Region in support of regional development.


34. With the aim of bringing the populations closer to the management of their local affairs, the Communes, Arrondissements and Cercles shall have an organisation similar to that of the Region:

-a Council elected for five years, the number of seats being determined by the density of the population, taking account also of the geographical extent. Each Council will elect its President and Bureau, and select a local Executive who will answer to the Council.

-the Secretary-General of the local council area will be selected by the President, and he will ensure that the decisions of the Council are consistent with national rules and legislation.

35. The Councils at the level of the Cercle, Arrondissement and Commune shall exercise powers equivalent to those of the Regional Assembly.

36. The budget of the Cercle, Arrondissement and Commune shall be voted by its Council. It will be funded from local rates, by subsidies allocated by the Region on the basis of credits from the State, and by donations and legacies.

37. This policy of bringing the citizen closer to the management of local affairs will be consolidated by a programme to reinforce the network of urban and rural communes in the North of Mali. The new communal boundaries will be determined through studies and proposals to be carried out and elaborated by each of the Regions in consultation with the lower levels (Cercle, Arrondissement and Commune), which proposals shall be submitted to the appropriate national authority for final approval.

38. In addition to these elected civic structures, any group of citizens acting together or any professional association, whether at the local, regional or inter¬regional level is authorised in the North of Mali, consistent with national rules and legislation.

39. Communes, Arrondissements and Cercles shall be able to initiate programmes of exchange or partnership with equivalent organisations in other Regions of Mali.

40. Communes, Arrondissements and Cercles are authorised to initiate programmes of cooperation and exchange with similar organisations in other countries.

Implementation History


Minimum Implementation

Mali adopted a democratic constitution in February 1992 after overthrowing an authoritarian regime. In Chapter XI, the constitution dictates the rules surrounding regional and local government and section 98, it specifies, “municipal governments are [to be] freely administered by their elected councils, within conditions fixed by the law.” The Malian government’s decision to devolve power to the local government units was a response to three influences: external pressure (from the IMF and World Bank), their own initiatives to consolidate political power, and, finally, domestic pressure from the Taureg threat.1 After the signing of the National Pact, President Alpha Oumar Konar visited Northern Mali and inaugurated new administrative structures. The constitutional provision, the provision for special decentralization for the north, and the inauguration of administrative structures in northern Mali can all be considered serious efforts aimed at devolving power.

  • 1. Jennifer C. Seely, “A Political Analysis of Decentralisation: Co-opting the Tuareg Threat in Mali.” Journal of Modern African Studies 39, no. 3(2001): 499-524.

Intermediate Implementation

In January 1993, the Decentralization Mission (DM) was formed by presidential decree (93-001). This mission was given a mandate to conceive, propose and facilitate decentralization within one year. Ousmane Sy was named director of the twelve-member board. And in February, the first decentralization law (93-008) was passed. The law outlined the rights and responsibilities of territorial collectivities.2 This law devolves power to the national subunits and gives autonomous control over health, education and some infrastructure, within their respective jurisdictions. These units were also allowed to collect revenue in order to facilitate their responsibilities related to health, education and infrastructure. 

  • 2. Ibid., 512, 521.

Intermediate Implementation

The DM, originally established in 1993 to facilitate decentralization within one year, was granted an extension to three years by a presidential decree 94-051 in January 1994. The DM was focused on creating new administrative boundaries by giving villages the opportunity to group themselves into their desired communes. 


Intermediate Implementation

In March 1995, Law 95-022 was passed. This law outlines the role of state functionaries in the administration of the new territorial collectivities. In April, villages began to deliberate on the self-determination of communes. Law 95-034 was passed, which established not only the Territorial Collectivities Code but also the jurisdiction of the new units’ governing bodies at different levels. In May the presidential decree was announced (Decree 95-210) which determined state representation at the level of collectivities.3

The outcome of these decentralization initiatives was the regrouping of the communes into eight regions. Depending on the size of their population, each commune could have a council of 11-15 members popularly elected for five-year terms. Similarly, councils, as provided by the decentralization law (95-034) were to be formed at the circle and regional levels with members drawn from lower collectivity representatives. Though the state was represented through the presence of civil servants at each level, this was a complete transfer of power to the new collectivities.

  • 3. Ibid., 522.

Intermediate Implementation

By 1996, the entire infrastructure related to the devolution of power was finalized through the enactment of various laws and presidential decrees. The DM required all collectivities to be economically viable. And by 1996, 627 rural and 20 urban communes had been self-determined.4 But, elections for decentralized units were yet to be held. 

  • 4. Ibid.,  513.

Intermediate Implementation

All structures for the collectivities were finalized but the elections for these collectivities were yet to be held. A total of 701 collectivities were finalized.5

  • 5. "Mali: Electoral Team Confirms Ruling Party's Victory in Municipal Elections," BBC Monitoring Africa, June 28, 1998.

Intermediate Implementation

Communal level elections took place in 19 municipalities on June 21, 1998. The voter turnout was low due to the opposition’s boycott of the elections. In the elections, the ruling party, the Alliance for Democracy in Mali, (ADEMA) won 16 out of the 19 municipalities. The elections in other collectivities were scheduled for November.6 But the November elections for the remaining 782 municipalities were postponed again upon requests from 17 parties, asking for extra time to campaign. Elections were rescheduled for May 2 and June 6.7

  • 6. Ibid.
  • 7. "Mali local elections postponed, again," Agence France Presse, March 27, 1999.

Full Implementation

In May, elections in 492 towns took place in the Kayes, Koulikoro, Sisasso and Segou regions. In these elections, the ruling Alliance for Democracy in Mali (ADEMA) won 4,193 of the 7,124 seats. There were 80 parties but only 30 parties took part in the elections.8 In the remaining towns, elections took place as scheduled on June 6. Following these elections, ethnic clashes occurred between Arab and Kounta communities. These communities fought over the control of Tarkint, a town in the Bourem district;38 people were killed and 13 wounded during the conflict.9

  • 8. "Ruling Mali Party Wins Over 4,000 Seats," Pan African News Agency, May 7, 1999.
  • 9. "Ethnic Clashes Kill 46 in Mali," Panafrican News Agency Daily Newswire, July 19, 1999.

Full Implementation

Decentralization was successfully implemented in Mali. Instead of just devolving political and economic power to northern Mali, the government adopted and successfully implemented a decentralization program throughout the country. 


Full Implementation

Decentralization was successfully implemented in Mali. Instead of just devolving political and economic power to northern Mali, the government adopted and successfully implemented a decentralization program throughout the country.