chapter  6
21 Pages

Parties and issues in Francophone West Africa: towards a theory of non-mobilization

ByJaimie Bleck and Nicolas van de Walle

Reforming Mali’s national family code has long been on the agenda of Western donors, women’s associations and international non-government organizations (NGOs) in Bamako. In August 2009, after little debate, the Malian Assembly passed a new code with a vote of 117 for, five against, and four abstentions. Its statutes establish a legal age of marriage, regulate inheritance, and require state-sanctioned marriage. Opposition parties had not included the Family Code in their party platforms or talking points and were apparently not prepared for the massive opposition to the Code that soon erupted. The following weekend, approximately 10,000 protesters took to the streets in one of the country’s biggest public demonstrations since its democratization in the early 1990s. On 22 August, the first day of Ramadan, Islamic associations organized a rally of some 50,000 people, which

filled the national soccer stadium and spilled out into the streets. In the face of this spectacle, the major political parties remained silent.1