Final Report: Inaugural Symposium on Leadership and Democratization
African Statesmen Initiative, Bamako, Mali
June 5-8, 2005

Executive Summary

During the last decade, Africa has experienced a visible expansion of political space, and democratic elections have led to peaceful political transitions in many countries. There now exists a group of elder statesmen who provide leadership to mitigate conflict and advance democratic institutions and processes across the continent. The African Statesmen Initiative (ASI) is a concept embraced by African former heads of state and government who seek to continue their contributions to the political and economic development of the continent. These leaders are uniquely positioned to contribute to ongoing democratization and good governance efforts.

Discussions with democratic African leaders about the formation of ASI underscored the need to build sustainable capacity on “Leadership and Democratization in Africa.” Accordingly, the ASI symposium was planned to lay the foundation for sharing post-presidential leadership experiences and expanding efforts to advance peace, prosperity, and democracy on the continent.

From June 5 to 8, 2005, 17 former heads of state and government convened in Bamako, Mali, to participate in a historic symposium. Drawn from 14 African countries and two countries from Europe and North America, these leaders were joined by experts in a variety of relevant fields. The conference sought to encourage democratic leaders who have demonstrated an ongoing commitment to political, social, and economic development to continue to play a constructive role in democratization initiatives across the continent; provide a forum for these leaders to share experiences from democratization and conflict management initiatives that they have undertaken since leaving office; and highlight their efforts and potential new outlets for their expertise in the areas of democratization and good governance.

In an agreement entitled the “Bamako Declaration,” the assembled statesmen highlighted their dedication to promoting political, social, and economic development on the continent. This document recognizes democracy as “the sole form of government that permits the development of the range of national institutions needed to ensure sustainable peace, security, economic growth and social well-being.” Moreover, through signing this declaration, the participating leaders expressed their commitment to “continuing to use [their] good offices to foster dialogue and the peaceful resolution of the continent’s conflicts, and to promote human security and democratic models of government that offer citizens the opportunity to choose their leaders freely and participate fully in the political life of their countries.” (See Appendix A for full text.)

Following recommendations by the participating African leaders, the National Democratic Institute
(NDI) and other program partners continue to seek ways to channel the enthusiasm sparked by this
inaugural event. Notably, NDI has helped link like-minded organizations and partners with African
former heads of state and continues to look for ways to assist the participants with documenting
their past, present, and future efforts to promote good causes in Africa. Along with the former
heads of state, NDI and its partners are exploring avenues to institutionalize the initiative in the
hopes of working together with similar continent-wide endeavors, such as the New Partnership for
Africa’s Development (NEPAD).