People in Mali are being urged to cast off election fatigue and vote Sunday in the fourth nationwide polls in less than six months, amid widespread apathy stoked by fears of Islamist violence. The second round of the country’s parliamentary elections comes three weeks after a poorly attended first, and follows two rounds of voting in July and August which saw Ibrahim Boubacar Keita take office as the troubled west African nation’s president. “There is a feeling that after the election of the president of the republic, it was game over. This is a mistake, but that’s how it is,” said Mamadou Samake, a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Bamako, who told AFP that Malians were “tired of going to vote”. Sunday’s polls, completing Mali’s return to democracy, come during an upsurge in violence by Al-Qaeda-linked rebels who stalk the vast northern desert, an ever-present danger to French and African troops who are tasked with providing security alongside the Malian army.
Islamists ousted by French and African troops in January from the northern towns they had occupied in the chaos following a coup last year resumed their deadly insurgency in September, after a lull of several months.
Since then, a dozen civilians, Malian troops and Chadian soldiers in the United Nations’ MINUSMA peacekeeping mission have been killed in and around Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal.
In a grisly reminder for the West of the ongoing security crisis, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb on November 2 kidnapped and shot dead two French radio journalists who had come to Kidal, 1,500 kilometres (930 miles) northeast of Bamako.
The first round of the election on November 24 passed without major incident but the ongoing threat of bloodshed was underlined on Tuesday by a French military operation in which troops killed 19 Islamist militants in Mali’s vast northern desert.