Résumé : Non-communicable diseases (NCDs) are among the leading causes of morbidity and mortality globally. While international strategies for their prevention and control call for greater civil society participation, many observers regret the lack of a broad social movement to address these diseases. This study focuses on diabetes patients’ associations engaged from 1991 to 2014 in Bamako, Mali, and explores what factors influenced their capacity to build a collective national movement to address this disease and shape policy reforms in this area. Our findings show that the emergence of such a movement was limited by several constraints. The focus of diabetes patients’ associations on technical biomedical issues silenced the daily embodied experience of patients and reduced the use of human-rights approaches. Moreover, few financial, material and social resources coupled with a fragmented base limited the scope and strength of claims made by patients’ associations to obtain treatment at reduced coasts. Finally, modes of actions performed failed to challenge more structural inequalities and imbalances of power. Exacerbated by limited political opportunities, these constraints weakened the associations’ ability to drive policy change on diabetes. They reflect some of the current weaknesses of the global mobilisation to address diabetes and NCDs.