Amadou Toumani Touré life and biography

Amadou Toumani Touré picture, image, poster

Amadou Toumani Touré biography

Date of birth : 1948-11-04
Date of death : -
Birthplace : Mopti, Mali
Nationality : Malian
Category : Politics
Last modified : 2010-07-22
Credited as : Politician, President of Mali, World's political leader

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Amadou Toumani Touré, also known as: Amadou Toumani Toure, born November 4, 1948 in Mopti, Mali is a Malian politician and the current President of The Republic of Mali.


The Republic of Mali, formerly the French Soudan, is a landlocked nation in West Africa. The mighty Niger River and its tributaries run through much of the southern half of the country, but the northern half is made up of the Sahara and Sahel region bordering the desert. Its neighbors are Algeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Senegal, and Mauritania. The country takes its name from the ancient West African empire of Mali that was at its height in the fourteenth century, controlling much of the savanna area of West Africa. The Republic of Mali has an area of 1,240,192 sq km (478,841 sq mi) and is divided administratively into eight regions.

Mali had an estimated population of 11.3 million in 2002. Despite a high infant mortality rate of 120 deaths per 1,000 live births, the country has experienced a 2.97% population growth rate. Life expectancy is 46 years for males and 49 years for females. The literacy rate in 2002 was 33%. The official language is French, but the Bambara language is spoken by a majority of the population, with other major languages being Fulfulde, Sonrai, Tamashek, Soninke, and Senufo. Approximately 90% of the people profess to be Muslims, with the remaining 10% favoring traditional beliefs or various denominations of Christianity.

The currency unit is the CFA franc. Per capita gross domestic product (GDP) has been estimated at US$840 in 2001, but on average Malians earn about US$240 a year, making Mali one of the poorest countries in the world. The main exports are raw cotton and cotton products (accounting for approximately 50% of export totals), cattle, and gold. Its major trading partners are France, Côte d'Ivoire, and Senegal.

POLITICAL BACKGROUND

Colonized by the French and part of the French West African Federation, Mali was known as the French Soudan. For approximately one year the Soudan formed a federation with Senegal. This federation was dissolved, and the Soudan gained its independence as the Republic of Mali in September of 1960 under President Modibo Keita. In 1968, Lt. Moussa Traoré, at the head of the Military Committee of National Liberation (CMLN), deposed Keita in a coup d'état and suspended the Constitution. In 1974, under a new Constitution, a 137-member National Assembly was created (as of 2003, the National Assembly had grown to 147 seats). Mali became officially a one-party state under the Democratic Union of the Malian People (UDPM). In 1979, Traoré was elected president in a tightly controlled election and was re-elected in 1985.

Mali's economic prospects continued to fade under Traoré's increasingly corrupt and unyielding dictatorship. He imprisoned former political rivals; Keita died in prison in 1977. As multiparty democratic pressures swept the continent in the late 1980s, Traoré resisted calls for political party formation outside of the UDPM. Tensions between politically resistant groups calling for reform and the government continued throughout the fall of 1990 and into the spring of 1991, leading to several days of bloodshed in Bamako and regional capitals. When it became obvious that Traoré was not going to yield, a group of army officers, led by Amadou Toumani Touré, deposed Traoré on 25-26 March 1991. They dissolved the government and the UDPM, suspended the Constitution, and eventually set up a Transitional Committee for the Welfare of the People (Comité de Transition pour le Salut du Peuple, CTSP) with a 25-member cabinet.

Touré remained interim head of state until municipal, legislative, and presidential elections were held in the winter and spring of 1992. Alpha Oumar Komaré emerged as the winner on 26 April 1992, becoming Mali's first democratically elected president. Touré stepped down, becoming just the second African leader to leave office in a peaceful transition following democratic elections (the other was Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria). Ten years later, in elections held in April--May 2002, Touré was returned to power in a democratic election. Ibrahim Bouibacar Keita, leader of the Rassemblement pour le Mali (RPM) and a prime minister from 1994-2000, was voted to head the National Assembly.

PERSONAL BACKGROUND

Amadou Toumani Touré was born 4 November 1948 in Mopti, Mali. He received his early education in his home village of Mopti and he continued his studies in Tombouctou and Badalabougou. In 1972 he graduated from military school with a rank of second lieutenant in the airborne division. In the late 1970s, he received elite military training in the former Soviet Union and at a training center in Mont-Louis, France. Following this training, in 1978 he was made captain of a parachute battalion of the Mali army. He was also recruited to become a member of the elite Presidential Guard.

By 1988, Touré had achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel. He returned to France for several months of further military training in 1990; upon his return he found the country in chaos. The Traoré government blocked Touré's promotion to general and removed him as battalion commander, an action that was deeply disappointing to him. The next year he led force that deposed the Traoré government.

Few details about Touré's personal life are widely known. He is married and the father of two children. Following the elections of 1992, former U.S. president Jimmy Carter invited Touré to become involved with international peacekeeping and social development. Since then, Touré's accomplishments in African peacekeeping and his work with the Carter Center, notably to eliminate the guinea worm from Mali, has been well known. In 1993 Touré established the Children's Foundation dedicated to promoting the rights of children and youth through programs on nutrition and safe drinking water, education, environmental protection, and social peace. Touré also is the president of the Inter-African Network for Street Children, and the vice-president of the Earth Charter.

Touré is one of four facilitators of the peace mission to resolve the conflicts in the Great Lakes region of Africa, comprised of the nations of Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. His work as a conflict resolution facilitator on behalf of African presidents earned him the 1996 Africa Prize for Leadership awarded by The Hunger Project.

RISE TO POWER

Touré's rise to power in 1992 came at a critical juncture in African history when many countries in the region were undertaking democratic transitions following the break up of the Soviet Union and the end to the Cold War. Now coined the "Malian Revolution," prodemocracy demonstrations in Bamako and other cities turned violent when security forces fired upon youthful protestors, killing 300 in March 1991. Then Lieutenant Colonel Amadou Toumani Touré was appalled by the bloodshed, and led an army coup that overthrew Moussa Traoré, ending 23 years of despotic rule in Mali. Selected to head an interim government, Touré presided over a peaceful transition. For the next 14 months Touré and his transitional committee oversaw the drafting and approval of a Constitution, a structure for political parties, and a code for elections. When the resulting free and fair elections were held, Alpha Omar Konaré emerged the victor. Touré became only the second African military leader (after Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo) to give up power peacefully.

Following the transfer of power, Touré established a nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Children's Foundation, supported by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter. Touré's concern for women's and children's rights--including the fight against excision, pedophilia, and exclusion from education and healthcare--earned him international respect. Due to Touré's success in humanitarian and peace-keeping activities, in 2000 Kofi Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations (UN), invited Touré to become the special envoy to the Central African Republic to secure a peace agreement. These efforts were well received and led to broader involvement in promoting African integration.

Choosing to focus on his humanitarian work, Touré observed Mali's democratization process from the sidelines for almost a decade. Far from being a dispassionate observer of Malian politics, however, he was troubled by the erosion of traditional Malian values, which he believed had led to a loss of civic spirit and national harmony. In October 2001, he retired from the army in order to enter the presidential contest. According to Touré, it was his contact with children and his concern for their future that convinced him to reenter politics.

On 28 April 2002, Touré won the first round election with 29% of the vote, defeating former prime minister and presidential rival, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. In the run-off election held 12 May, he garnered 64% of the vote, defeating Soumalia Cissé to become the second democratically elected president of the Republic of Mali. Eleven francophone African leaders witnessed the transfer of power from one constitutionally elected president to another--the first time in Mali's history.

LEADERSHIP

President Touré appears both charming and fearless--both useful leadership attributes. He is also a pace-setter. On the same day that he led the March 1991 coup, he was elected president of the Committee of National Reconciliation, which developed the blueprint for Mali's transition to a multiparty democratic state.

His popularity with Malians and the Malian press earned him the nickname, ATT (his monogram), which gave him free publicity during the campaign. His spirit of altruism appears natural and effortless, and his concern for the welfare of women and children is genuine. His speeches challenging Africa to build on its traditions and civilization for sustainable development have touched a responsive chord across generations. His optimism has endeared him to many. His expressions, such as "when the night is darkest, the dawn is at hand," resonate with the populace and are frequently quoted. Given Africa's gloomy record of conflict and poverty, Touré's attitude seems to have proven a tonic for many.

In October 2002, Touré formed a cabinet of national reconciliation with appointments from all the main parties having won seats in the Parliament in July 2002 elections. Appointments to head six of the most influential ministries went to close associates and technocrats who were part of Touré's transitional government in 1991-92. His prime minister, former diplomat and dose Touré advisor Ahmed Mohamed Ag Hamani, heads twenty-one portfolio ministers and seven secondary ministers. The security and civil protection portfolio is held by Colonel Souleymane Sidibe, a friend of Touré's and a member of the democratic transition government. General Kafougouna Kone, an army colleague and confidant of Touré, was named to head the territorial administration and local communes ministry. Basary Touré, a former World Bank official and minister of finance during the transition government was named to head the finance ministry. The culture portfolio is headed by Cheick Oumar Sissoko, a filmmaker and president of an opposition party. Choguel Maiga, president of the Mouvement Patriotique pour le Renouveau, a member of the Hope 2002 coalition, will lead the ministry of industry, commerce, and transport.

Touré's nominees incurred criticism from the two main coalitions--Hope 2002 and Alliance pour la République et la démocratie (ARD)--and some members of the national press, who thought the appointments were unfairly tilted toward Touré's friends and close allies. Touré, however, was quoted as saying "those who want to play at party politics will have to jump ship." Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has supported this dictum and Touré's appointments, thus helping to promote consensus. With Keita on board, analysts feel that Touré stands a good chance of maintaining popular support as long as he can show progress in alleviating the nation's overwhelming poverty. Nevertheless, fundamentalist Muslims have accused the West of corrupting Mali with immorality and a US$3 billion debt, and have appealed for an "Islamicized" government more reflective of Mali's heritage. This religious-ideological rift will no doubt test Touré's political skills and leadership.

DOMESTIC POLICY

President Touré's priorities are to liberalize the economy, fight corruption, consolidate the tax base, and manage public expenditure in favor of economic growth and poverty reduction. While none of these represents a major departure from former President Konaré's policies, the 2003 budget places a much stronger emphasis on poverty reduction and social welfare. For example, the combined budgets of education, health, and rural development account for over 60% of Touré's US$1.5 billion budget for 2003, and if Mali meets the benchmarks of the enhanced Heavily Indebted Poor Countries (HIPC) initiative by early 2003, more expenditures in these sectors will be possible. The government will also increase the wage bill by almost 30% to meet trade unions' demands for salary increases in the public sector.

The Touré administration also has pledged itself to structural reform. The government has tendered a divestiture of the cotton parastatal, Companie Malienne pour le dévelopement des textiles (CMDT), long considered a symbol of top-down inefficiency. The CMDT is expected to be fully privatized by 2005, but low pricing in cotton due to European Union (EU) and U.S. farm subsidies could disrupt the plan, and efficient private-sector operators with sufficient resources will need to fill the gap. Reforms to other sectors--including finance, energy, transportation, and telecommunications--are specified in Mali's three-year poverty reduction and growth facility (PRGF) of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Although the Konaré administration bequeathed Touré a modestly robust economy with a growth rate expected to remain at about 5% or higher in 2003-04, civil conflict in neighboring Côte d'Ivoire drove inflation up to 4.5% in 2002, and the rebel insurgency blocked the transit of goods across Mali's southern border. As a result, the costs of such staples as sugar, rice, and fuel have risen while the collection of import duties--an important source of budget revenue--has declined.

Touré's budget also will be affected by the loss of jobs held by Malians working in Côte d'Ivoire, which means fewer remittances to stimulate the economy.

Touré also finds himself having to take a firm stance against protectionist G-7 agricultural legislation such as the American Farm Act passed in early 2002. Protectionist policies in the United States and in EU countries hurt Malian producers, and Touré has sent representatives of the Malian agricultural producers to meet World Bank and IMF officials in Washington to voice his concerns. Malians, however, will also have to streamline their own production, given the inefficiencies and inappropriate technology that characterize Malian agriculture and textile production.

FOREIGN POLICY

Touré is expected to safeguard Mali's reputation as a regional mediator within the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the African Union (AU). Despite fundamentalist pressures at home, he will likely stay the course set by President Konaré, projecting Mali to be a moderately progressive, secular state committed to democracy and regional cooperation. Donors are expected to maintain aid flows that will help Touré bridge domestic divisions.

The conflict in Côte d'Ivoire, and the Ivorian government's failure to contain the insurgency, have soured relations between the two countries. Rebels in northern Côte d'Ivoire killed several Malians within a government-controlled area of Côte d'Ivoire, and some 50,000 Malians, having been subjected to xenophobic rhetoric by the Ivorian government, returned to Mali from their homes in Côte d'Ivoire where they lived and worked for years. In response to periodic border closings and restrictions, Touré placed paramilitary security units at border crossings and in the interior to supervise the movement of people and goods. He also filed a formal complaint against the Gbagbo government in Côte d'Ivoire. Relations improved following the visit to Bamako by the Ivorian foreign affairs minister and his address to the Malian National Assembly. Subsequently, Mali agreed to participate in the six-nation ECOWAS group mediating the conflict, and will contribute 200-300 troops for peacekeeping operations in Côte d'Ivoire.

Relations between Mali and France generally are cordial. Touré's visit to Paris in December 2002 resulted in a cancellation of US$202 million or 38% of Mali's bilateral debt to France. Much of this debt had been contracted when Mali rejoined the franc zone in 1984, and the debt cancellation freed scarce resources for Touré's ambitious social-welfare program. Still, considerable tension between the partners has resulted from the presence of thousands of Malian citizens residing illegally in France. In 1996, relations hit bottom when the French undertook forced repatriation of African immigrants, and estimates in 1999 suggested that some 36,000 Malians were living legally in France, while as many as 60,000 were there illegally. Touré has discussed the issue with the French interior minister, who has advocated a mix of legal immigration and repatriation of illegal immigrants. Again, the prospect of fewer remittances--the lifeline for many Malians and an important source of national revenue--would stymie economic growth.

On May 3, 2007 Toure received 68 percent of the vote in the first round of Mali's presidential elections, earning him a second term in office.

April 29, 2007: Toure won election to another term as president of Mali with over 70 percent of the vote.

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