News / Africa

Mali Candidates Pledge Reconciliation

A boy runs in front of a mural that reads "Peace", in Timbuktu, July 24, 2013.
A boy runs in front of a mural that reads "Peace", in Timbuktu, July 24, 2013.
Anne Look
Malians rank peace and stability as top priorities for the country's next president. They go to the polls Sunday amid tensions in the far northern town of Kidal.  It has been occupied by the Tuareg separatist group, the MNLA, since a French-led military intervention against jihadist groups in northern Mali began in January. 
 
What to do about Kidal? 
 
Mali's 27 presidential candidates have tried to strike a delicate balance, pledging to get tough on the country's vast security challenges while fostering reconciliation. 
 
The lone female candidate in the race is a National Assembly deputy from the northern town of Bourem.  She has been an outspoken critic of the MNLA rebellion. 
 
Aichata Chada Haidara said she is not against dialogue, but that "we need a dialogue" that includes all Malians. "If we don't find a solution through dialogue, we must use force, " she said, " and I think I have shown that I would be able to fix this problem by dialogue and if that doesn't work, by force." 
 
Candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was the first of four frontrunners to make a campaign stop in Kidal, the bastion of the Tuareg rebellion, 1,600 kilometers from the capital, Bamako. 
 
  • 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.

Kidal counts less than 1 percent of the country's registered voters but, as the home turf of the rebellion, it boasts more than its fair share of symbolism in this election. 
 
In Kidal, Keita said these divisions have torn Mali apart and it is time to mend. 
 
Keita said he will work to return Mali to the state of brotherhood and solidarity that it has always been. "We need to put the country back together and God willing, I say I will do it and so I will," he said.
 
The latest top candidate to visit Kidal, Soumaila Cisse, said Wednesday he was there to highlight the need to rebuild Mali as "one and indivisible."
 
Voting will take place in Kidal following a makeshift provisional accord signed between rebels and the government on June 18.  The agreement called a cease-fire for the elections and allowed some Malian troops and administrators to return to the rebel stronghold. 
 
Tensions, however, are running high and have led to bursts of violence.  Six election workers were kidnapped and later freed. 
 
The government mediator for the June agreement, Tiebele Drame, was a presidential candidate until he pulled out, saying the country, and in particular Kidal, are not ready for this election. 
 
This is the fourth time Tuareg rebels have fought for independence since 1960.  Previous rebellions have ended in peace accords and unkept promises.  
 
But this most recent rebellion, launched in January 2012, sent the country tumbling into a nationwide crisis marked by a military coup in the south followed by an Islamist takeover of the north.  Mali, once called one of Africa's most stable democracies, was being compared to Afghanistan and Somalia. 
 
Voters say the pressure is on for the next president to solve the problem once and for all. 
 
A street seller from the northern town of Gao, Mamadou Maiga, said all these problems need to end and that when he thinks about the north, he cannot sleep at night.  "I can't even hear the word rebellion anymore. Enough is enough," he said.
 
An MNLA spokesman told VOA that they are ready for negotiations with the new government, once in place, but declined to say what their demands will be, saying just that they are entering talks with an open mind.
 

You May Like

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid