The Observatory for Elections and Good Governance in Mali was dissolved during a cabinet meeting. On the same day, preacher Chouala Bayaya Haidara was incarcerated and charged with “harming the credit of the State” after expressing critical views on the transitional authorities. This incident adds to the list of personalities imprisoned in recent months for expressing their opinions.
Malian citizens are still uncertain about when they will have the right to elect their future president, but they already know that one of the last voices daring to ensure the proper conduct of elections will no longer be allowed to do so.
Officially, the dissolution of the Observatory, led by Ibrahima Sangho, was justified by public statements made during the contested constitutional referendum last June. Ibrahima Sangho had recently called on the authorities to set a new date for the February presidential election, intended to conclude the transitional period but postponed indefinitely three months ago.
“Undermining the Credit of the State”
Preacher Chouala Bayaya Haidara, on the other hand, was incarcerated on Wednesday and charged with “undermining the credit of the State” and “publishing and disseminating false information likely to disturb public order.” He will be tried next March. He had just denounced power outages, the management of Mali’s transitional authorities, arbitrary arrests, and restrictions on freedom of expression.
Some observers believe that this is a message intended for more influential religious leaders like the influential imam Dicko or Cheick Chérif Ousmane Madani Haidara, president of the High Islamic Council, who have also been critical of the current regime. Many consider them – perhaps mistakenly – as “untouchable” due to their status.