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Lesson for Tsvangirai From Mali’s Cisse

Lesson for Tsvangirai From Mali’s Cisse

Published: 15 August 2013

The first round in Mali’s vote did not produce an outright winner forcing the top two candidates, former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and former finance minister Soumaila Cisse to face off in a runoff poll last Sunday, August 11.

Zimbabwe has travelled this route before, and bumpy as it was Sadc and the African Union made efforts to unite our major political parties and also create a conducive environment for the holding of free, fair and credible elections.

What is unique about the Malian poll is that the West African nation held the election after a 4 500 strong French army intervened in January to fight al-Qaeda linked insurgents. The election was also held under the supervision of UN peacekeeping mission of about 6 000 troops from a number of African countries. This was more or less what obtained in Zimbabwe in 1980.

Despite these conditions, Malians voted peacefully and the outcome is being hailed by both regional and international observers. Hopes are high that this watershed moment would turnaround Mali’s fortunes for the better.

But more critical is that Cisse’s camp had initially voiced concerns, citing irregularities and “massive fraud”. They also accused the interim government of acting in favour of Keita’s party.

Cisse’s camp also claimed that their representatives and electoral agents had been “intimidated, questioned, and even detained by security forces and that filled ballot boxes had been found”. They argued that these irregularities had “seriously corrupted the credibility of the results”.

Interestingly, Cisse on Monday conceded defeat in a very honourable manner. Despite the earlier complaints, he realised that Mali was bigger than any of its politicians and that if he was genuine about seeking a true democratic path for Malians, then the best way was to respect the people’s voice and their choice.

It was a humbling experience when he went to see president-elect Keita in person “to congratulate him and wish him good luck”, putting everything behind him. Cisse might have come second, but when he decided to put the people of Mali ahead of his personal interests he won more than he lost in the runoff. He also taught some African opposition politicians a thing or two.

We might not at the moment understand how someone who was crying that he was being robbed decided to change his mind, but the most important thing is that Cisse realised that this was a game where there would be a winner and a loser, and by stretching out his hand to the winner, he was actually doing it to the people of Mali, and making himself a winner as well. He also made a good case for democratic values.

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