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

Photogallery South Africa Bans Travelers From Ebola-stricken Countries

South Africans returning from affected West African countries will be thoroughly screened, required to fill out medical questionnaire, health minister says More

Multimedia UN Launches ‘Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years’ in Iraq

Move aims to help thousands of Iraqi religious minorities who fled their homes as Kurdish, Iraqi government forces battle Sunni insurgents More

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

IT specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about disease More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbasi
X
Scott Stearns
August 21, 2014 9:20 PM
The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ferguson Calls for Justice as Anger, Violence Grips Community

Violence, anger and frustration continue to grip the small St. Louis suburb of Ferguson, Missouri. Protests broke out after a white police officer fatally shot an unarmed black teenager on August 9. The case has sparked outrage around the nation and prompted the White House to send U.S. Attorney Eric Holder to the small community of just over 20,000 people. VOA’s Mary Alice Salinas has more from Ferguson.
Video

Video Beheading Of US Journalist Breeds Outrage

U.S. and British authorities have launched an investigation into an Islamic State video showing the beheading of kidnapped American journalist James Foley by a militant with a British accent. The extremist group, which posted the video on the Internet Tuesday, said the murder was revenge for U.S. airstrikes on militant positions in Iraq - and has threatened to execute another American journalist it is holding. Henry Ridgwell has more from London.
Video

Video Family Robots - The Next Big Thing?

Robots that can help us with daily chores like cooking and cleaning are a long way off, but automatons that serve as family companions may be much closer. Researchers in the United States, France, Japan and other countries are racing to build robots that can entertain and perform some simpler tasks for us. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video In Ukraine, Fear and Distrust Remain Where Fighting has Stopped

As the Ukrainian military reclaims control of eastern cities from pro-Russian separatists, residents are getting a chance to rebuild their lives. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the town of Kramatorsk in Donetsk province, where a sense of fear is still in the air, and distrust of the government in Kyiv still runs deep.
Video

Video Five Patients Given Experimental Ebola Drug Said to Be Improving

The World Health Organization has approved the use of experimental treatments for Ebola patients in West Africa. The Ebola outbreak there is unprecedented, the disease deadly. The number of people who have died from Ebola has surpassed 1,200. VOA's Carol Pearson reports on the ethical considerations of allowing experimental drugs to be used.
Video

Video China Targets Overseas Assets of Corrupt Officials

As China presses forward with its anti-graft effort, authorities are targeting corrupt officials who have sent family members and assets overseas. The efforts have stirred up a debate at home on exactly how many officials take that route and how likely it is they will be caught. Rebecca Valli has this report.
Video

Video Leading The Fight Against Islamic State, Kurds Question Iraqi Future

Western countries including the United States have begun arming the Kurdish Peshmerga forces in northern Iraq to aid their battle against extremist Sunni militants from the Islamic State. But there are concerns that a heavily-armed Kurdistan Regional Government, or KRG, might seek to declare independence and cause the break-up of the Iraqi state. As Henry Ridgwell reports from London, the KRG says it will only seek greater autonomy from Baghdad.
Video

Video In Rural Kenya, Pressure Builds Against Female Circumcision

In some Kenyan communities, female genital mutilation remains a rite of passage. But activists are pushing back, with education for girls and with threats of punishment those who perform the circumcision. Mohammed Yusuf looks at the practice in the rural eastern community of Tharaka-Nithi.

AppleAndroid