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Prominent Malian Economist Sentenced For Criticising Military Junta

Étienne Fakaba Sissoko, an economist and professor has been sentenced to two years in jail for criticising Mali’s ruling junta.

A prominent Malian economist and professor, Étienne Fakaba Sissoko, has been sentenced to two years in jail, with one year suspended, for his criticism of the military junta currently ruling Mali. Sissoko was also fined 3 million CFA francs ($4,900).

The 41-year-old academic, who has been in custody since March, faced charges of defamation and damaging the state’s reputation by distributing fake news. These charges stem from his book published last year, which he defended in court, asserting that it was based on factual information.

His case is the latest in a widespread crackdown on critics and political opponents of the military rulers.

The junta came to power in August 2020 after overthrowing then-President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in a coup, following massive anti-government protests over his handling of jihadist unrest.

Sissoko’s lawyer, Ibrahim Marhouf Sacko, expressed his lack of surprise at the verdict and indicated plans to appeal. The University of Bamako professor previously served as an adviser to the former President Keïta and spent several months in jail in 2022.

The controversial book that led to his latest arrest is titled Propaganda, Agitation, and Harassment – Government Communication During the Transition in Mali. In it, Sissoko accuses the junta of using manipulation and “even lies” to influence public opinion. In a Facebook post before his arrest, he also called for elections to be held.

The military junta has been criticised for failing to adhere to agreed timelines for transitioning to democratic civilian rule, repeatedly postponing elections that were initially scheduled for February. Additionally, the junta has faced scrutiny over its handling of the economy and the worsening jihadist insurgency, despite the deployment of Wagner group mercenaries and the expulsion of UN peacekeepers.

In recent developments, participants in a so-called “national dialogue” suggested extending the transition period by another three years. Over the past year, several junta critics, including popular social media influencer Rokia Doumbia and prominent activist Adama Ben Diarra, have been jailed. In April, the junta also suspended political activities and imposed a media blackout on political coverage.

Melissa Enoch

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