Malians took part in the country’s presidential election on Sunday, but many experts say the rushed vote is not legitimate because many citizens were prevented from taking part due to security concerns. Many are also questioning France’s role in the poll. The voting took place at around 21,000 polling stations across the country, with news agencies reporting a good turnout despite Islamist militants’ promises to attack polling stations. The threats came although France has labelled its military campaign – which began in January against al-Qaeda-linked fighters occupying the north of the country – “a success.” The campaign was launched shortly after an army coup ousted Malian president Amadou Toumani Tourea. While there were queues outside polling stations in the Malian capital of Bamako, there were organizational problems in the north, with many people unable to determine the correct voting location.
Intense negotiations at two Bamako institutions have yielded a settlement in recent days to Mali’s political crisis. But do Malians believe their incoming interim president, Dioncounda Traore, can put their country back on track? A line of black Mercedes cars snakes outside a luxury hotel in the Malian capital of Bamako while inside the air-conditioned lobby clutches of military-men in camouflage uniforms huddle in discreet corners, holding hushed conversations with ascending ranks of African diplomats. Discussions done, the dignitaries and military deputies march tight-lipped to their waiting cars before they’re off in a convoy of screeching sirens, to a military base on the outskirts of Bamako. The political action in this West African capital is moving at a rapid clip these days, after diplomats from the regional West African ECOWAS bloc negotiated a power handover deal with Mali’s military coup leaders last week.
Mali’s coup leaders announced a new constitution including a pledge to allow elections in which they would be barred from standing, even as several thousand supporters rallied in the streets of the capital Bamako on Wednesday. The charter, which did not specify when the elections would be held, came hours after West Africa’s ECOWAS bloc threatened sanctions and the use of military force to reverse last week’s coup that ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure. “Anyone who was a member of the CNRDRE or the government cannot be a candidate in the elections,” the new constitution, read out on state television, said of the junta, known as the National Committee for the Return of Democracy and the Restoration of the State.
Tense and edgy merely weeks ago, the mood has since changed in Senegal, as the country stands on the precipice of another democratic achievement. The capital, Dakar, taut from the pre-election violence that resulted in at least six deaths in clashes between opposition supporters and security forces, now breathes a little easier in anticipation of a peaceful and successful runoff on Sunday. But by no means is the result of the presidential runoff here a cakewalk; pockets of tension continue in districts of Dakar, as a society gears itself for the possibility of a seismic power shift in the country’s body politic. The metamorphosis, however, from “critical” to “stable” has so far disproved the animated conjecture of overzealous journalists who speculated that the violence would intensify and spill into other restive countries in the regional neighbourhood. Senegal had the makings of a success story in a region often characterised by volatility, disappointment and paranoia. The talk in Senegal this week has been cautiously optimistic; peace is considered the default, the earlier violence a mere aberration from the norm. And then came Mali.
Capt. Amadou Sanogo, the leader of the ongoing military coup in Mali, announced Friday he has no intention of retaining his hold on power. Sanogo claims he will hold presidential elections once he ensures the military is equipped to combat Tuareg anti-government forces in Mali’s restive north. “We are not here to confiscate any power but we are here to have an army and security forces available to assume the nation security,” Sanogo told the BBC. “So once this has been fixed, I’ll be able to say ‘Ok, go for an election’ in a short period of time. I promise.” Sanogo also told reporters that democratically-elected President Amadou Toumani Toure and members of the government are safe and have not been harmed. “These people are safe and sound. We will not touch a hair on their heads. I will hand them over to the courts so that the Malian people know the truth,” he said.
Malian soldiers angered over the government’s mishandling of the two-month-old Tuareg rebellion in the North say they have overthrown President Amadou Toumani Toure – just weeks before the election that would have marked an end to his mandate. The president’s location is unknown. Frustration had long been brewing in the military in what had been one of the region’s few stable democracies. Residents told VOA that sporadic gunfire continued in Bamako Thursday just hours after renegade soldiers – calling themselves the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State – or CNRDR, seized control of the state.