Mali has legislation that explicitly outlaws state employees, including security officials, from engaging, directly or indirectly, in private enterprises that could compromise their independence.
Article 11 of the General Statute for Civil Servants, which entered into force in 2002 and was amended in 2014, states that:
“It is forbidden for a civil servant to possess, by themselves or via an intermediary of any kind, interests, of a nature that could compromise their independence, in a business that is either subject to the control of their organisation or in any form of relationship with that organisation. A Decree issued by the Council of Ministers states that private commercial activities, which could violate the dignity and the interests of the functioning of the public administration, are prohibited for civil servants”.¹
The General Statute for members of the armed forces, adopted in 2016, is even more stringent. Article 45 of the statute states that:
“Serving members of the armed forces are forbidden from engaging in any profit-making business activity in a professional capacity, regardless of what it is. The conditions under which serving members may exceptionally be made exempt from this restriction are fixed by the decree of the Council of Ministers. Military officials may not, directly or via an intermediary, while they are in service and for a period of five years after terminating their service, have interests, of a nature that could compromise their independence, in a private company subject to their oversight or control”.²
The General Statute for the national police, adopted in 2018, contains a similar clause, but does not go as far as to impose restrictions after officials have left the police. Article 14 states that:
“Police employees may not, regardless of their position, undertake a commercial activity whose nature could discredit the functioning of the police or create an ambiguity that would be prejudicial to the functioning of the police. The employee must also take appropriate measures to safeguard the interests of the service when the activity of his or her spouse is of a nature that could discredit the functioning of the police or create an ambiguity that would be prejudicial to the functioning of the police”.³
None of the three General Statutes cited outline specific sanctions for breaking these clauses, but they do contain sections relating to disciplinary proceedings in cases where officials breach any part of their statute. The statutes contain provisions for the suspension of employees while investigations are undertaken and, in the most serious cases, for the dismissal of officials.¹ ² ³
The assessor has found evidence indicating that unauthorised private enterprise is common, but is largely in the form of illicit and highly informal activities. By contrast, there is no evidence that military figures exercise any control of the formal activities of private businesses.
A defence attaché working at a foreign embassy in Bamako told the assessor that it is common for soldiers to take up informal secondary jobs to supplement their income.¹² The source noted that young recruits are not allowed to be married: only when they have completed basic training and officially become soldiers, entitling them to a basic starting salary, can they marry . As soldiers marry and start to have children their domestic liabilities increase. The stakeholder said that military bases are often half empty because soldiers are out performing manual labour, such as chopping wood, to earn more.¹⁰
The northern parts of Mali have been an important area of transit for smugglers for at least the past ten years following decades of underinvestment and poor governance in the regions.¹ ² ⁵ ⁸ Smuggling of subsidised food, cigarettes, fuel, arms and human-beings have become embedded in the local economies, which for centuries have served as important trading routes across the Sahara Desert.¹ ² ⁵ ⁸ ⁹
Smuggling and the complicity of state officials reached its peak under the government of Amadou Toumani Touré, who was president between 2002 and 2012. As ICG notes “Under the ATT government, relations between the centre of power in Bamako and the periphery rested on a loose network of personal, clientelistic, even mafia-style alliances with regional elites with reversible loyalties rather than on robust democratic institutions.”² During this period, Mali even became a trafficking route for cocaine from Latin America. In 2009, a Boeing 727 carrying up to ten tonnes of cocaine crash-landed after taking off from an airstrip in Gao.³ In 2010, another plane carrying several tonnes of cocaine landed at an air-strip in Kayes, in the west of the country, where it was reportedly received by several local officials, including military officials.³
According to many observers, the military and many politicians were effectively embroiled in organised crime and “have bolstered their political and military positions of power using illegal income”.¹ A report by the Global Initiative against Transnational Organized Crime claimed that illicit trafficking “defined the nature of the political crisis in Mali,” has “entrenched itself into the Malian ethnography,” and has become “thoroughly integrated within political and military structures in northern Mali”.⁹
However, since the collapse of the Malian state in 2012 and the election of IBK in 2013, reports of drug trafficking and any kind of military involvement have dried up amid “some tangible efforts to reform the legal system and tentatively enforce some of the legal mechanisms that exist to tackle such problems”.⁶
Even so, there is still widespread evidence that security officials remain complicit in human trafficking. The Netherlands Institute for International Relations highlights that corruption is particularly visible in the police and security forces, where jobs are distributed as political favours and sold at a price.⁷
“At the dozens of roadblocks along the way to Bamako and Gao, migrants pay a toll of between 1,000 and 5,000 CFA (1.50–7.50 EUR) to the security forces that control them. According to key respondents from the region, the Gao gendarmeries also take migrants off the bus at the city entrance. Migrants reportedly have to pay a tax between 2,000 and 5,000 CFA (3–7.50 EUR) and are then handed over to the smugglers who take them under their wing. In other cases, migrants are arrested after entering Gao, and smugglers pick them up from the police station in exchange for a bribe.”⁷ Security officials are also reportedly implicated in the issuing of false passports.⁷
Nevertheless, the assessor found no concrete evidence to suggest that the country’s main legitimate industries, chief among them gold mining, are captured by military leaders. Gold is by far Mali’s most important export, comprising nearly 70% of total exports in 2016.¹⁰ The mining areas are mainly concentrated in the south and west of the country, specifically in the regions of Sikasso, Kayes and Koulikoro. The sector is dominated by foreign-owned companies, such as Jersey-based Randgold, Toronto-based IAMGOLD, Johannesburg-based AngloGold Ashanti, Vancouver-based B2Gold and Toronto-based Endeavour. These companies are highly professional enterprises that are not subject to the influence or control of Mali’s security organisations.
However, Mali’s weak implementation of taxes on gold exports and lax regulation of artisanal mining has resulted in the country becoming the region’s major hub for illicit gold exports.¹¹ For instance, in 2014, the Malian government recorded that a total of 40 tonnes of gold had been exported from the country.¹¹ Yet, the UAE reported that it had received 59.9 tonnes of gold exports from Mali, indicating a large discrepancy attributable to illicit exports of artisanally-mined gold and gold smuggled into Mali from Côte d’Ivoire.¹¹ Smuggling on this scale strongly suggests a significant degree of complicity on the part of Malian customs officials. In Côte d’Ivoire, it is primarily former soldiers from the Forces Nouvelles rebels, many of whom have yet to be formally integrated into the Ivoirian army, that control the smuggling routes. But there is no evidence that members of the Malian armed forces or defence ministry officials are implicated in the smuggling of gold along the main transit route through Sikasso to Bamako.¹¹