The decentralisation programme in Mali received a boost when municipal elections were finally held in 1998–99. This programme, initiated in 1992, is notable for its scope and the degree of autonomy extended to rural and urban communes. Given Mali's history of failed attempts at decentralisation, the current administration's commitment to the programme suggests that political motives are driving the reform. The decentralisation effort began as an attempt to placate separatist Tuareg groups in the north of Mali, and was subsequently extended to include the rest of the country. I argue that the extent of the programme, as well as the relative zeal with which it has been carried out, are products of a political strategy of cooptation on the part of President Alpha Oumar Konaré. This political analysis of decentralisation serves as a supplement to policy analyses of decentralisation in general.
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