Obstacles pile up ahead of Mali polls

2013-07-22 12:31

(Shutterstock)

Multimedia   ·   User Galleries   ·   News in Pictures Send us your pictures  ·  Send us your stories

Bamako - Mali is hoping against the odds for credible 28 July presidential elections but crucial barriers to an acceptable voter turnout and the ever-present threat of terrorist attacks are casting a long shadow over preparations.

The polls are seen as vital to reuniting the country after a March 2012 military coup and a sweeping offensive by Islamist rebels who captured the entire north before being flushed out by French and African troops.

But the timing of the vote has raised logistical issues that critics feel have not been addressed and many have warned that a botched election could be more damaging for Mali's fragile roadmap to peace than no election at all.

Chief among the problems highlighted by observers is the slim chance of a decent turnout, a prerequisite for a result that will be accepted by a nation still riven with deep divisions after the coup.

With the vote announced at the end of May, officials had just weeks to distribute almost seven million voting cards and the latest data from organisers suggests the task is only 60% complete.

Furthermore, the Islamist occupation forced hundreds of thousands of eligible Malian voters into neighbouring countries or displaced them internally, and it remains unclear whether they will be able to vote.

Sunday's election comes with Mali's rainy season in full swing, and heavy storms could inhibit travel, while many observing the holy month of Ramadan in the mainly Muslim nation may choose to stay at home whatever the weather.

Ethnic tensions

Analysts Andrew Scarpitta and Charlotte Florance wrote in a recent blogpost for the US-based conservative think tank Heritage Foundation that a turnout of less than the 36% achieved in 2007 would be unthinkable.

"Furthermore, even though a peace agreement was signed last month, ethnic tensions are still simmering. Violence, compounded with a low election turnout, could lead to ongoing instability and conflict," they said.

Much of the worry over security is focused on the restive northern town of Kidal, occupied for five months by Tuareg separatists from the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA).

The Malian authorities finally reclaimed the city after signing a ceasefire deal with the MNLA and another Tuareg group on 18 June aimed at reuniting the country and clearing the way for the elections.

But clashes between Tuaregs and black civilians in Kidal that left four dead last week and the subsequent kidnapping of polling staff by suspected MNLA gunmen in the town of Tessalit, 200km further north, suggest that security is far from assured.

Mali's decision to push ahead despite the problems can be explained, say Scarpitta and Florance, by the fact that key partners, including the US, are linking offers of aid to the staging of elections on 28 July.

At a special donor conference in Brussels in May, Mali secured pledges of $4.2bn and in return interim president Dioncounda Traore vowed to hold "transparent, open, honest and credible" polls.

A quick election also allows Mali's former colonial power France to withdraw by the end of the year most of the 4 500 troops it sent in January to stop armed Islamists from advancing towards the capital, Bamako.

Mali's democracy

The problem is that a botched election could be far more destabilising than not having a vote, according to Brussels-based think tank International Crisis Group (ICG), which called in June for a delay of a few weeks.

"Even a credible and technically successful election would not suffice to establish Mali's democracy on a firm foundation, introduce ethics into the practice of public affairs, reconstruct the Malian security services or reconcile the Malian people to each other," ICG's Louise Arbour and Gilles Yabi wrote in a recent report.

"But to therefore resign oneself to having an election that could mobilise well under the 36% of the eligible voters who participated in the last presidential vote in 2007 is a peculiar way to encourage democracy in Mali."

Parallel to the Tuareg problem, analysts fear that residual elements of the defeated Islamists will seize the opportunity presented by the election to strike back at the Malian government in a bid to destabilise the peace process.

The ICG has urged Mali's authorities, the UN peacekeeping mission and the French military to prepare for the possibility of terrorist attacks on voting day.

Read more on:    tuaregs  |  dioncounda traore  |  mali  |  west africa  |  mali elections 2013
NEXT ON NEWS24X
SHARE:

Read News24’s Comments Policy

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
0 comments
Add your comment
Comment 0 characters remaining
 

Inside News24

 
/News
 

Africa: Land of Billionaires!

Find out who are the richest of the richest in Africa!

 
 

Men24.com

Best bro movies 2014
Every man should be able to do these three things
Goalkeeper saves five penalties with his FACE!
Hottie of the day: Jesselyn

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Magical Massinga

Spend 5 nights at the gorgeous Massinga Beach Lodge in Mozambique and only pay for 4 from R13 220 per person sharing. Includes return flights, accommodation, transfers and romantic turndown. Book now!

Kalahari.com - shop online today

Hot festive offers at kalahari.com!

Hurry! Stocks are limited. Don’t miss out. Shop Now!

Save up to 60% on toys!

Don’t miss out on this hot offer, save up to 60% on toys. While stocks last. Shop now!

Festive gifts!

Check out our awesome range of festive gifts to make everyone’s wishes come true. Shop now!

Seen something you like in our catalogue?

Find the perfect gift and save up to R5000 – As seen on the catalogue. Hurry and shop now!

Save up to R2200 on electronics! – As seen in the catalogue

Wishing for tech gadgets this festive? Save up to R2100 on hot tech products at kalahari.com. While stocks last. Shop now!

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

Horoscopes
Aquarius
Aquarius

Grandiose ideas and plans can trip you up today. Keep things in context and take one step at a time....read more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.
 
English
Afrikaans
isiZulu

Hello 

Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.


Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.

Settings

Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.








Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.