The former top U.S. diplomat for Africa says Mali's presidential election will not be "perfect" but is important in restoring democracy and stability.
Former assistant secretary of state for African affairs Johnnie Carson tells VOA that delaying the vote would not serve the country's interests. He said it would only help entrench those currently in power.
Malians will cast ballots Sunday in the country's first presidential election since soldiers toppled President Amadou Toure last year. Islamists took advantage of the political turmoil to take over northern Mali, only to be driven out by French and Malian forces earlier this year.
A government led by interim President Dioncounda Traore currently rules Mali.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Thursday that the United States encourages all Malians to take full advantage of the chance to express their will through the ballot box.
Carson said Mali's new leadership will need to establish control over government institutions and address grievances that contributed to last year's unrest.
A Tuareg man dances at a campaign rally for presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in Timbuktu, Mali, July 24, 2013.
A man searches for his name on a list of eligible voters at an election center in Bamako, Mali, July 23, 2013.
A vendor walks past a shop decorated with election posters supporting presidential candidate Dramane Dembele, in the central market area of Timbuktu, Mali, July 22, 2013.
Issa Djire, a supporter of presidential candidate Dramane Dembele, stands next to posters of Dembele outside his house in Bamako, Mali, July 22, 2013.
Traditional Dogon hunters fire shotguns to welcome presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita at a campaign rally in Bandiagara, Dogon Country, Mali, July 21, 2013.
Presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita speaks at a campaign rally in Bamako, Mali, July 21, 2013.
Presidential candidate Soumaila Cisse waves to his supporters at a campaign rally in Bamako, Mali, July 20, 2013.
Women and girls wearing outfits made of wax cloth depicting presidential candidate Soumaila Cisse dance and hold up a baby, also decorated with a campaign sticker, during a campaign rally in Bamako, Mali, July 20, 2013.