Malians burned ballot boxes and one candidate was kidnapped during local elections meant to fill posts left vacant in the north since Islamist militants hijacked a 2012 Tuareg rebellion and ousted the government. The jihadists were driven out a year later by a French-led military operation, but have continued to launch strikes on army and U.N. targets from their desert bases and have intensified their insurgency in recent months and spread further south. Polls were canceled in at least seven districts for security reasons in elections widely criticized by opposition parties as well as armed groups participating in a U.N.-led peace process, pointing to the ongoing fragility of the former French colony three years after the war. While locals formed orderly lines outside polling booths in the southern capital Bamako, ballot boxes were burned by armed men in Timbuktu and the PRVM-FASAKO party said its candidate for a commune near the central town of Mopti had been kidnapped.
On a main road near the outskirts of the northern town of Gao, locals had gathered stones and arranged them to read “No elections here”, although voting proceeded inside the town and crowds gathered at some polling stations.
“The current situation is not right for elections because the majority of our population are scattered in different refugee camps,” said Amgar Ag Yehia, a Timbuktu resident who boycotted the vote.
In Kidal, 250 kilometers to the north in a region that Tuareg separatists call “Azawad”, Tuareg women draped in colorful cloth marched in the streets for the second day.