Generating community support for local authorities in Mali

Voices for Peace radio shows help a community in Ouattagouna, Mali to stand together against terrorist extortion and pay local taxes, reversing the possibility of losing its local government entirely.

News of
Mali

Sabina Behague

The community of Ouattagouna, located in the circle of Ansongo in northerastern Mali, is one of the areas most affected by the multidimensional crisis that the country has been experiencing since 2012. Like most communities in the north of the country, Ouattagouna lacks local financial resources and municipal authorities, while at the same time experiencing increased terrorist group and criminal activity.

According to local authorities, the community was at risk of losing its local government entirely, as there was zero tax collection from 2012 through 2017. In 2017-2018 local authorities were able to collect only 35,000 CFA francs out of 17 million, or 0.2% of recovery rates because the population had been forced to pay off the jihadists.

Citizens of Ouattagouna paying taxes to local authorities

It was in this context that the Voices for Peace project produced three radio programs starting in January 2019 on the importance of paying local taxes to the authorities. This issue had emerged during the initial radio roundtables and call-ins as an indication of the perceived lack of legitimacy of the state. The tax payment topic provoked an outcry as several callers stated that they had already paid taxes to the jihadist groups in the area, and they did not want to pay taxes a second time to the municipality.

A second program was produced in partnership with local authorities that explained the importance of paying the local state tax. These revenues would give state representatives the means to strengthen their presence and legitimacy to the detriment of jihadist groups. The radio broadcasts were followed by six public assemblies in local villages to discuss the best ways to mobilize local resources across Ouattagouna.

The chief of the local village of Karou in the Ouattagouna region declared a special day paying local taxes, spurring an official competition between the different villages of the municipality. In this competition, the highest tax recovery rate was achieved by the Tuareg Kelgueguelene group, which had been accused of supporting violent extremism.

The municipality recovered more than 4,000,000 CFA francs in local taxes, a recovery rate of about 24% over the period from January to December 2019.

In living memory, the municipality of Ouattagouna has never, since its creation, achieved such a high rate of tax recovery for the State. – Deputy Mayor, Village of Karou