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Information for 12558IIED

Decentralisation and boundary setting in Mali: The case of Kita district

Eric Idelman

Issue paper, 24 pages

In the early 1990s decentralisation in Mali was primarily seen as a means of finding a viable political solution to the Tuareg rebellion. In the years that followed, the desire for certain aspects of Western democracy among a section of Mali’s urban elite and Western plans for African development combined to produce a French-style system of territorial decentralisation, albeit one where municipalities are composed of groups of villages. The process of establishing geographic and political boundaries to create the new rural municipalities had to take account of the differing spatial strategies adopted by the State and its citizens. The government of the 1990s opted to simultaneously create over 700 rural municipalities through voluntary village groupings, in an ambitious procedure intended to tackle the delicate and potentially conflictual issue of land tenure. This paper asks whether territorial decentralisation in Mali should address the issue of land tenure. If so, should it do this through natural resource management? And is it always necessary to set territorial boundaries?

This report uses examples from the district of Kita to try to answer these questions, starting with a look at the way that local government boundaries have been set in Mali.

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