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Décentralisation et pouvoirs en Afrique

Claude Fay
Yaouaga Félix Koné
Catherine Quiminal


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1Jean-Loup Amselle: ‘Political practices of the past. The N’ko and administrative decentralisation in Mali’

2An eminently modern, administrative reform driven in particular by foreign donors—both international and national—in the name of good governance, the decentralisation implemented in Mali for a number of years was unable to avoid African roots. Here, the reading made by Souleymane Kanté, the founder of the N’ko movement, of medieval political groups and of the Malian empire in particular, was found to be relevant for the establishment in Malian territory of a reform that first and foremost concerns the colonial and post-colonial vicissitudes of the government of Mali. Although the pattern of analysis put forward by the N’ko has not been officially approved by the Malian government, it has been a direct inspiration for the decentralisation mission whose leading officials belonged to the movement. And even if the Malian state, which also claims to be a modern state, was unwilling to be enclosed in a rigid historical pattern, the decentralised imperial paradigm proposed by the N’ko remains a central feature for discussion among the country’s political and cultural elite.

3Keywords: N’ko –Malian Empire – Power – Malinké – Delafosse.

4Bréhima Kassibo: ‘Mali: two-speed decentralization? Ka mara la seki so or the slow and difficult return home of authority’

5The decentralization implemented by the Third Republic, according to the opinion shared by part of the Malian intelligentsia, would be the right solution chosen by this government to respond to the aspirations of rural communities. These were long dominated by the former policies and would like to assume their historical responsibilities. Started in 1993, the decentralization process seems to have slowed with the passing years, particularly in the current phase that should be devoted to the transfer of power and resources by the authorities to elected representatives of local communities, legally designated to manage local affairs. Ten years after the start of the process, only three types of powers have been transferred to the local level (basic education, community health and rural and urban hydraulics) without any substantial allocation of resources. Furthermore, no significant transfer has been made in the field of environmental management. This situation seems to be justified by a lack of confidence by institutional decision makers in the real capacity of local representatives to ensure sustainable and effective management of institutions and resources.

6Keywords: Mali – Decentralisation – Decentralised communities – Authority – Transfer.

7Lassana Traoré: ‘Toponymy, patronymics, autochthony. Historical conditions of territoriality in Mali’

8Certain Mandé patronyms were the cores for the development of sociological entities such as the Kanioko for the Traoré, the Balawulena for the Kéïta and the Solon for the Doumbia. Within the framework of decentralisation, the links between these resurrections of old sociological entitites and the old pre-colonial centres of power and the fact that they were the first in the Mandé lands serve as the basis for claiming privileges and benefits related to the exercising of the new democratic power. These recurrent features have been observed in the forming of political parties, territorial division and the election of mayors.

9Keywords: Toponymy – Patronymics – Autochthony – Power – Decentralisation.

10Claude Fay: ‘Power over persons, power over goods, communal powers. Competitive remodelling’

11The Malian decentralisation process was considered from the outset not as a mere administrative reform but as an operation for the reorganisation of ‘power’ both in local worlds and in relations between the latter and the state. In the Maasina (the fifth region) in particular, this process triggered a series of reinterpretations of the two types of locally predefined power: power over persons and power over goods (land, water and grazing), together with a series of redefinitions of the roles and prerogatives of the main stakeholders: chiefs and traditional landowners, political officials, territorial administration delegates, judges, etc. It is shown here that these local reinterpretations are both in competition with each other and symmetrical and in competition with that of the state. They raise at their level the question of the relations between power, identity and community rights.

12Keywords: Mali – Administrative reform – Local powers – Landholding – The state.

13Yaouaga Félix Koné: ‘The vestibule and/or the ballot box. What kind of legitimacy for exercising communal power?’

14Decentralisation in Mali appears to form the point of convergence of a host of demands of unequal value. The communes form the basic territorial authorities and most were established on the basis of a minimum of consensus. One of the explicit wishes in decentralisation was undoubtedly the emergence of new socio-political players. The project seems to have run up against enormous difficulties in implementation because of resistance from traditional powers that in many places have admirably entered the political parties and placed men at their service there. This shows the extremely great capacity of the traditional authorities for political anticipation. The latter have succeeded in making the vestibule an essential step for access to the town hall, the seat of communal power. Both the vestibule and the town hall are sites (seats) of the exercise of power. The former has traditional legitimacy and the latter is a modern form of administration.

15Keywords: Decentralisation – Commune – Vestibule – Town hall – Elections.

16Seydou Camara: ‘Land, power and decentralisation in the Manden’

17With the opening to democracy following the events of March 1991, Mali opted for decentralisation whose key objective is the promotion of local development in which the question of landholding plays a very important role. The new reform is intended to ensure good governance, rational resource management and better integration of marginalised groups. In the Manden, land is closely related to power, forming both the interest and instrument of the latter. Set up against a background of protest, the communes started with a degree of confusion and many difficulties, as is shown in Bankumana and Mininjan, the two cases examined here.

18Keywords: Land – Power – Development – Landholding – Democracy.

19Bah Diakité: ‘Decentralisation in the rural communities of the Kolondiéba circle (Mali). Truth of the ballot box and social hierarchy’

20Decentralisation has induced changes in alliance strategies in rural communes. This paper analyses the way in which local players—and especially the younger ones—instrumentalised their affiliation to the political parties in order to gain access to power. It also shows how the political parties used the old power structures. Stress is laid on the weight of the female vote and the role of international NGOs in the region. The process of decentralisation in time is described: establishment of boundaries, election and the management of communes. Comparison of the two communes Kolondiéba and Ngolodiama sheds light on the complexity and diversity of the ongoing processes.

21Keywords: Conflicts – Alliances – Political parties – Foreigners/natives – NGO.

22Monique Bertrand: ‘Unbridled landholding/blocked landholding. The recent issue of decentralisation or central alternance in the long history of urban communes in Mali?’

23Land management qualifies the idea that the ongoing decentralisation in Mali might cause a complete break in the organisation of local competences with regard to the old central system. In towns in particular, the control of territorial resources involves political competition without there being social anomie or an administrative vacuum. First of all, the capital displays a halting scenario seemingly resulting from the preparation and then the implementation of decentralisation under the Third Republic: communal action is taken in alternate unbridled land division and administrative suspensions imposed sharply on the awarding of building plots by the supervisory authorities. A retrospective view of these towns shows in fact that this uneven management has been a feature of the paradoxical relations between local and central authorities for a longer period: it has caused the successive blockages and political regulation of the three Malian republics.

24Keywords: Urban landholding – Communal management – Local powers – Political regulation.

25Bréhima Béridogo: ‘The decentralisation process and the plurality of the approaches by players in Mali’

26During the pre-colonial period, Mali did not have a decentralised administration comparable to today’s ongoing system. The first communes thus date from colonial occupation and the term ‘decentralisation’ was mentioned in the discourse of all the post-colonial governments. However, it was not implemented until the Third Republic in order to find a solution to the social crises experienced at the time in Mali. Implementation of the reform led to various expectations and interpretations, each determined by the preoccupations and approaches of the various players: holders of traditional power, immigrants, the state, donors, etc.

27Keywords: State – Power – Commune – Players’ approaches – Rural communities.

28Françoise Bourdarias: ‘Decentralization, Custom and Law. Imagined figures of a conflict at the boundaries of Bamako (Mali)’

29The administrative measures (decentralisation) implemented in Mali since 1992 are leading locally to new forms of conflict and social tension involved in the control of land, of political power and the social networks required to accumulate and share resources. At the same time, the shifting social configurations give a colour of their own to the administrative process. A newly elected council has been split into several factions in a rural municipality (Diallakorrodji) adjoining the urban district of Bamako since early 2000. The supporters of the traditional authorities (the Custom) are at odds with the mayor’s supporters. The components of this violent conflict are linked in such a way and the uses of ‘tradition’ are so many-featured that we can use them to show the social dynamics developing with the land markets (legal, illegal and ‘custom’), the arrival of new inhabitants and the introduction of NGOs.

30Keywords: Decentralisation – Custom – Land conflict – NGOs – Mali.

31Catherine Quiminal: ‘Decentralisation, democracy and migration in the Kayes region’

32Emigrants from the Kayes region have used associations to drive initiatives aimed at addressing the reasons that made their departure necessary: little remunerative work, lack of sanitary, scholastic, road and water infrastructure. Decentralisation was considered by certain association leaders as a framework enabling them to rethink their relations, including political relations with their country of origin. This new local elite operating in a France-Mali transnational area redesigned the forms of power and social relations developed around the notions of public good and general interest. This paper is devoted to the analysis of these processes.

33Keywords: Decentralisation – Associations – Transnational – Citizens’ practices – Emigrants/immigrants.

34Clemens Zobel: ‘Local political spaces, State and representation. Communes in the Mangingue Mountains the upper Niger valley’

35The article defines the constitution of political spaces creating an interface and a regulatory framework between institutions and normative systems of local and Western origin as a major stake of decentralisation politics in Mali. The functioning of three new communes south-east of the capital is examined and the hypothesis is put forward that their political spaces are characterised by cleavages that support centralisation at a local level. Access to information and to decision-making processes remains restricted to a small group, villages lack a space for public deliberation and parallel institutional circuits are maintained. These tendencies result at least partially from the interaction between a hierarchical approach related to a French administrative tradition and a long-term relation between local powers and encompassing state powers.

36Keywords: Decentralisation – Public space – Participation – Elections – Lineage system.

37Gilles Holder: ‘Between City-State and Muslim City. The urban council of Djenné and Malian decentralisation’

38This paper examines the conditions of practice of local democracy within the framework of the decentralisation process undertaken by Mali since 1993. The city of Djenné, the smallest Malian city (18,000 inhabitants) to have a city council and also the oldest one (2,300 years), illustrates two urban models each suggesting a single representation, or even a single content, for the council. Firstly, the City-State provides a match between local citizenship, the city council and historical urban features in adjusting the nomenclature of colonial urban identities. Secondly, the Muslim City, based on religious time and space, makes it possible sometimes to reject the political and the democratic “adventure” to the benefit of the existing social order and sometimes to envisage a new urban social pattern.

39Keywords: Mali – City-state – Muslim city – Citizenship – Urban features.

40Anne Doquet: ‘Decentralisation and new way of treating traditions in Dogon country. The cultural events of the Dourou and Sangha communes’

41Decentralisation in Dogon country has given rise to various cultural events in a short time. This paper studies the ‘mask festivals’ in Dourou communities and then examines the question of Sangha, a mythical site. The recent changes observed enable us to guess how the difficult process of decentralisation is connected with a new way of treating traditions, upon which the upholders of traditional power, newly elected members and an emergent elite are working at the same time. In this competition at several levels, culture is a springboard for everyone to gain new economic or political positions. At the same time, these cultural events show how traditional rituals have a tendency to shift towards new community celebrations that may contain the seeds of a new community identity.

42Keywords: Decentralisation – Dogon – Ritual – Cultural festivals – Local elite.

43Giorgio Blundo: ‘“I don’t need a ticket”. Negotiation of market taxes and petty corruption in Senegalese local authorities’

44The article analyses the process of market tax collection in urban areas in Senegal and describes the various negotiations and arrangements between taxpayers, local council members, municipal police and tax collectors. Approach via local taxes has a twin purpose—first that of describing the real functioning of local authorities and the contradictory factors that lead them to lessening the pressure in the search for fiscal resources that are nonetheless essential for their economic viability. Secondly, this highlights the practical standards underlying the local fiscal system. The author shows that the real difficulties in gathering resources experienced by Senegalese municipal authorities are caused not only by the weak legitimacy of local governments but also governance consisting of a mixture of political clientelism, the informal privatisation of fiscal extraction powers and widespread ordinary petty corruption processes.

45Keywords: Local taxation – Informal privatisation – Corruption – Decentralisation – Senegal.

46Pierre-Yves Le Meur: ‘Management of waiting: rural Benin in the face of decentralisation’

47Part of the constitution of Benin, decentralisation was aimed at completing the democratisation of the country. Implementation ran very late (communal elections were held in 2002/2003) and is unfinished at the lower levels. The delay generated responses and local anticipations. These concern the mobilisation of resources (taxation, contributions, rents) and their use for collective purposes and are a question of political representation, affiliation, citizenship and the presence of the state. The way in which public policies are reinterpreted in local contexts is relevant to and models ‘moral communities’ that mobilise different principles of justification. The changing combination of these registers contributes to modelling decentralisation and natural resource management policies. These questions are addressed using an empirical local context of agrarian and political frontier in the centre of Benin.

48Keywords: Benin – Decentralisation – Local politics – Natural resources – Mobility – Membership.

49Carola Lentz: ‘Contested boundaries: decentralisation in North-Western Ghana’

50At the end of the 1980s, the ‘Rawlings government’ in Ghana announced the creation of new districts, setting in motion intense lobby politics, political mobilisation at the local level and struggles over the boundaries of the new districts. The paper discusses one such struggle in the Upper West Region where the creation of new districts led to protracted discussions on the connections between land ownership and political authority, on the relations between local ethnic groups and on the relevance of ethnic versus territorial criteria in defining local citizenship. The paper argues that using the concept of ‘traditional’ local communities as the quasi-natural basis of grass roots democracy, as the Ghanaian decentralisation project implicitly did, is highly problematic. It is a Pandora’s box rather than a panacea for curing the evils of a distant state.

51Key words: Decentralization – Citizenship – Boundaries – Ethnicity – Northern Ghana.

52Eric Komlavi Hahonou: ‘A “nomad” community in the face of decentralisation in Niger’

53The study is set upstream of the implementation of decentralisation in Niger. A description of the procedures for the awarding of public services and everyday governance in an administrative unit managing ‘nomad’ populations makes it possible to underline the intermediary role played by the chieftaincy. A case study presenting a future ‘territorial authority with no territory’ sheds light on the battle for historical legitimation between two chieftaincies in an agro-pastoral area in Niger. Finally, after bitterly fighting decentralisation, the traditional chieftaincy adjusted its efforts to the prevailing wind and thus participated actively in defining the legislative framework of the decentralisation reform in Niger, taking a strategic position to conserve part of the power in the future communes.

54Keywords: Public services – Local governance – Chieftaincy – Intermediation – Local powers.

55Jean-Pierre Olivier de Sardan: ‘Local powers while awaiting decentralisation in Niger’

56This text written before the communal (local) elections in Niger in July 2004 is based on a series of surveys conducted throughout the country by the Lasdel. These revealed several common trends in spite of the great variety of local political configurations: continuous conflicts centred on the chieftaincy, the importance of landholding conflicts that are increasingly numerous and explosive, the weight of statutory discrimination and the emergence of new claims, the decline of the local state, the multiplication of institutional architectures set up by development institutions, the opacity of local politics and economics for external participants and the growing return of people from area to local politics, among others. This leads to a whole series of questions concerning the impact of decentralisation.

57Keywords: Chieftaincy – Local state – Landholding – Development project – Public area.

58Jacques Palard: ‘The “local area” in the French decentralisation process’

59The inclusion of the politics of the ‘pays’ (local area) in French territorial organisation in the 1990s was the result of two linked processes. These were the mobilisation of local players who wished to take charge of their own social and economic development in a previously defined territory and the desire of central state authorities to give legislative coherence to a variety of local experiences. This decentralising, innovative policy has two main features. It is first the result of a long reform movement that leads to favouring ‘project territories’; from this point of view it recognises among other things the importance of new modes of governance by measures that combine local public power and civil society and that are organised for the implementation of local production systems. It can be forecast that the policy will have varied success at the national level. The results will depend to a considerable extent on the human, managerial, financial and material resources available to the territorial players for its implementation.

60Keywords: France – Decentralisation – ‘Pays’ policy – Governance – Territorial project.

61Daniel Nordman: ‘From the past of districts to the present of reforms and from France to Mali’

62Lucien Febvre wrote that ‘administration and geography form a pair’: geographers would not need to know administrative divisions. However, their history deserves to be traced. The limits under the French Ancien Régime were more stable than has been reported. Observations are made with reference to history and nature; districts have followed each other or have survived. As a conclusion, the author examines the way in which the experience of Mali and the revolutionary experience in France can be compared. The conference participants discuss the very short history of Malian reform. An ongoing work is designed jointly by researchers and players. A succinct calendar, with the historian remembering the moment that led to the end of the ‘Century of Light’. When new districts were laid out at the beginning of the revolution, towns and cities multiplied petitions, drafted plans and sent documents to the National Assembly. The new spatial features were developed to a fair degree by negotiation between users and the authorities in order to adjust the local and the national.

63Keywords: Administration – Boundaries – Malian experience – French Revolution – Petitions.

© IRD Éditions, 2006

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