Malian Civil Society Organizations Form a Transitional Justice Coalition

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December 2013

On November 15, Malian civil society organizations, with support from the ABA Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI), gathered in Bamako to launch a coalition to advocate for a transitional justice strategy that addresses human rights violations committed during Mali’s recent conflict. During the event, more than 22 Malian civil society organizations signed the coalition’s charter, which commits them to working together to promote the creation of mechanisms that give recourse to victims and foster national reconciliation.

ABA ROLI’s Project Director Olivier Kambala wa Kambala speaks at the launch of the coalition, flanked by Ms. Oulie Keita, senior program officer from Freedom House, Mr. Calixte Traoré, coalition member and president of the National Council of Laic Catholics, and Ms. Diawara Bintou Coulibaly, coalition member and head of research at the Association for the Promotion and Defense of Women.

ABA ROLI’s Project Director Olivier Kambala wa Kambala speaks at the launch of the coalition, flanked by Ms. Oulie Keita, senior program officer from Freedom House, Mr. Calixte Traoré, coalition member and president of the National Council of Laic Catholics, and Ms. Diawara Bintou Coulibaly, coalition member and head of research at the Association for the Promotion and Defense of Women. 

Mali’s March 2012 coup d’état and the subsequent seizure of the northern part of the country by a mix of separatist and Islamist groups were followed by reports of human rights abuses committed by both rebel groups and the Malian army. The human rights violations caused inter-community tensions and led to calls for retribution against perpetrators, contributing to a cycle of conflict and instability in Mali, which has seen repeated rebellions since its independence in 1960. The coalition will strive to address such tensions through a transitional justice strategy that will incorporate criminal prosecutions, truth-seeking initiatives and reparations.

“ABA ROLI facilitated the coalition’s formation by bringing civil society organizations together in a participatory process,” said Olivier Kambala wa Kambala, ABA ROLI program director in Mali. “We built confidence among the organizations’ leaders and demonstrated to them how working in synergy would [improve advocacy] for a pro-victim and anti-impunity strategy.”

ABA ROLI began its program with a stakeholder mapping process, during which Kambala met with a wide range of civil society groups to explore their interest in joining the coalition. Weekly meetings then allowed potential coalition members to help formulate the coalition’s mission and structure. Calixte Traoré, president of the National Council of Laic Catholics, said that the approach created “a convivial atmosphere characterized by frank, open and productive debate, and resulted in genuine engagement from participants.”

The coalition has also established three thematic working groups, focusing on the struggle against impunity, truth-seeking efforts and victims’ rights. Each group is working to propose policies and to implement an advocacy strategy targeting key policymakers within the Malian government and the international community. ABA ROLI will continue to support the coalition by organizing seminars to discuss lessons learned from other transitional justice processes; by facilitating input from victims of human rights violations; and by offering training on advocacy techniques. Program partner Freedom House is supporting these efforts by training coalition members on human rights documentation techniques.

ABA ROLI’s program in Mali is funded by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor.

To learn more about our work in Mali, contact the ABA Rule of Law Initiative at rol@americanbar.org.

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