A top African Union (AU) official says the group is working with political leaders and other stakeholders in Mali in the run up to the West African country’s July 28 presidential election.
Ambassador Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, AU commissioner for political affairs, says the group is encouraged by the recent agreement signed between the government and the Tuareg rebels.
The deal would allow elections to take place next month and the army to return to the rebel-held city of Kidal.
But, some officials have expressed skepticism about the agreement, saying that parts of the country are still not safe enough to carry out a peaceful election.
Abdullahi, who was recently in Mali, says officials of the interim government assured her the election will precede as originally planned in despite many challenges.
“From what I saw, there are still some challenges on the ground, but the minister in charge of territorial administration gave us the assurances that yes there are challenges, but the elections could hold,” said Abdullahi. “So we are keeping our fingers crossed, hoping that things will go well and the people would participate in the election.”
She says the AU has partnered with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to help Mali’s interim government and support the country’s efforts to return to constitutional rule.
“The African Union, together with ECOWAS, have been taking steps to ensure that we have constitutional order fully restored and the territorial integrity of Mali that was challenged also fully restored,” said Abdullahi.
Abdullahi says the AU has a team of human rights observers in Mali monitoring the humanitarian situation there.
She says the AU’s special representative, former Burundian President Pierre Buyoya, has been coordinating efforts with various groups in Mali ahead of next month’s vote.
“Pierre Buyoya has been engaging all the stakeholders, not only in the election, but also ensuring that there is security, there is calm and there is serenity in Mali,” said Abdullahi.
She says the group has a team of long-term poll observers in Mali as part of the AU’s effort to ensure a peaceful, credible and transparent presidential vote.
“A team of experts has already arrived in Mali to ensure that they have a thorough understanding of the processes and the conditions on the ground so that the AU will be in a better position to appreciate and follow the situation in Mali,” said Abdullahi. “Even after the election, our team of long-term observers will remain on the ground and continue to monitor the process until we are certain that things had gone well.”
Abdullahi says a team of short-term AU poll observers is scheduled to arrive in Mali on July 22 to join the long-term observers.
Clottey interview with Ambassador Aisha Laraba Abdullahi, AU commissioner