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

Uganda Court Annuls Anti-Gay Law

Court says law was passed in parliament without enough members present for a full quorum More

Multimedia Thailand Makes Efforts to Improve Conditions for Migrant Laborers

In Thailand, its not uncommon for parents to bring their children to work; one company, in-collaboration with other organizations, address safety concerns More

In Indonesia, Jihad Video Raises Concern

Video calls on Indonesians to join Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, ISIL More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborersi
X
Steve Herman
August 01, 2014 6:22 PM
Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video In Thailand, Some Efforts to Improve Conditions For Migrant Laborers

Thailand has been facing increasing international scrutiny as a hub of human trafficking and slave labor. Some of the kingdom’s companies are striving to improve working conditions, especially for the millions of migrant laborers from surrounding countries. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok takes a look at one initiative for children at construction sites
Video

Video Public Raises its Voice on Power Plant Pollution

In the United States, proposed rules to cut pollution from the nation’s 600 coal-fired power plants are generating a heated debate. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, charged with writing and implementing the plan, has already received 300,000 written comments. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, another 1,600 people are lining up this week at EPA headquarters and at satellite offices around the country to give their testimony in person.
Video

Video Information War Rages Alongside Real One in Ukraine

The downing of the Malaysian airliner two weeks ago, and allegations that Russians are shelling Ukrainian troops across the border, have moved the information war swirling around the Ukrainian conflict to a new level. VOA's Al Pessin reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video When Fighting Eases, Gazans Line Up at Bakeries

When there is a lull in the conflict in Gaza, residents who have been hunkered down in their apartments rush out to stock up on food and other necessities. Probably the most important destination is the local bakery. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Gaza City.
Video

Video China Investigates Powerful Former Security Chief

The public in China is welcoming the Communist Party's decision to investigate one of the country's once most powerful politicians, former domestic security chief Zhou Yongkang. Analysts say the move by President Xi Jinping is not only an effort to win more support for the party, but an essential step to furthering much needed economic reforms and removing those who would stand in the way of change. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US-Funded Program Offers Honduran Children Alternative to Illegal Immigration

President Obama and Central American leaders recently agreed to come up with a plan to address poverty and crime in the region that is fueling the surge of young migrants trying to illegally enter the United States. VOA’s Brian Padden looks at one such program in Honduras - funded in part by the United States - which gives street kids not only food and safety but a chance for a better life without, crossing the border.
Video

Video 'Fab Lab' Igniting Revolution in Kenya

The University of Nairobi’s Science and Technology Park is banking on 3-D prototyping to spark a manufacturing revolution in the country. Lenny Ruvaga has more for from Nairobi's so-called “FabLab” for VOA.
Video

Video Immigrant Influx on Texas Border Heats Up Political Debate

Immigrants from Central America continue to cross the U.S.-Mexico border in south Texas, seeking asylum in the United States, as officials grapple with ways to deal with the problem and provide shelter for thousands of minors among the illegal border crossers. As VOA's Greg Flakus reports from Houston, the issue is complicated by internal U.S. politics and U.S. relations with the troubled nations that immigrants are fleeing.

AppleAndroid