In 1994, Mali’s newly elected President Alpha Oumar Konaré faced increasing violence in the north and the threat of a full-scale civil war.
To find a way out of the crisis he initiated a series of countrywide open public meetings or ‘regional concertations’, adapted to local needs, in which people could express their hopes and fears and present recommendations for the future.
The objective was to listen to the people in order to understand their frustrations and hopes and to bring the political dialogue out to the provinces.
While their contribution to peace is debated, Kåre Lode argues that the meetings strengthened Konaré’s legitimacy (in particular vis-à-vis the army) and gave new social and political forces the space in which to influence the political agenda.
In recognising that all groups in northern society had to be treated fairly, it laid the foundations for the successful inter-community meetings that followed.