News / Africa

Registration Chaos, Security Could Impact Mali Elections

A man searches for his name on a list of eligible voters at an election center in Bamako, July 23, 2013.
A man searches for his name on a list of eligible voters at an election center in Bamako, July 23, 2013.
Ivan Broadhead
Malians go to the polls Sunday to elect new government leaders following a March 2012 coup and a subsequent crisis precipitated by a Tuareg secessionist movement. The international community has received some criticism for demanding presidential and legislative elections of an ill-prepared nation as a condition for freeing up $4 billion in aid. Concerns are growing that the elections may entrench recent divisions rather than promote national reconciliation.
 
Shortly after government offices had opened on a hot, humid Bamako morning, 50 Malians were already gathered at the central elections directorate. Men formed one line. In another stood women and the elderly, including three young mothers cradling infants in brightly colored shawls. 
 
At a window, behind iron bars, an official was entering data into a computer, attempting to understand why no one had received the biometric identity card that will allow them to vote in Sunday’s elections. 
 
Acording to Oumar Sidibe, the directorate’s head of communications, at least 100 people from all backgrounds go to the office each day. He spoke to reporters as an officer began assisting Oumou Sangare, the still cardless wife of a former Malian ambassador to the United Nations. 
 
"This is not our job," Sidibe said.  "It should be the job of the ministry of the interior [Ministère Territorial].  He added that they have access to computers that can help people figure out where their electoral cards might be. "We’re simply giving a hand,” he explained.
 
The biometric election document, which contains the bearer’s fingerprint and a color photo, among other data, is widely known as the ‘Nina’ (National Identity Number) card. 

  • 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.
 
English teacher Brahima Nyere, 59, who is helping his niece obtain her card, said it was hastily introduced for these elections to prevent vote rigging.
 
“I’ve taken part in almost all past elections," Nyere noted. "The system is not working perfectly. For example, in my district there is no center for distributing cards and I don’t know why.”
 
A source close to the international election monitoring team, who wished to remain anonymous for not being authorized to speak to the media, tells VOA only 25 percent of all eligible voters in Mali may have received the crucial election ID card. The source warned that this creates “a potentially significant legitimacy deficit” in the election process.   
 
Further complicating the process of election participation in this conflict-ravaged country is the fact that 400,000 Malians remain internally displaced, with 300,000 more living in refugee camps outside the country. 
 
A further 300,000 first-time voters could be ineligible to cast a ballot after not being included in Mali’s last census. 
 
“Mali was considered a model in Western Africa. The coup that occurred last year was unexpected. Everybody knows that it [the census-based system] is not perfect, but it is the least imperfect,” commented Nicolas Teindas, country director of the International Republican Institute. He is helping inform Malians about election procedures.
 
Bert Koenders, the U.N. special representative to Mali, is more positive. Citing U.N. Development Program figures, he said electoral ID card penetration easily exceeds 25 percent. 
 
“Your figures are not correct," Koenders insisted. "Almost 70 percent of cards have been issued. For the rest, we will have to see how logistical and security arrangements [go]. Nevertheless, it is up to observer missions to decide to what extent these elections are transparent and credible.”
 
In a country on the verge of being overrun by jihadists six months ago, security remains a considerable concern to Koenders, particularly in Kidal, east of Timbuktu, the only Malian city to remain under partial MNLA rebel control.
 
A week before the polls open, only one presidential candidate, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, had campaigned in Kidal, where MNLA adherents agreed to a ceasefire under the terms of last month’s Ouagadougou accord. 
 
Tiebile Drame, one of 28 presidential candidates, pulled out of the race last week saying Kidal, above all, was not ready for elections. The next day fighting between Tuareg and Songhai ethnicities left one man dead in the city. 
 
Five election officials were allegedly kidnapped by MNLA gunmen elsewhere in Kidal province on Saturday, before being released a day later. Koenders said although the U.N. cannot guarantee public safety, it is doing all it can. 
 
“Our human rights people have immediately gone up to Kidal and Gao," he noted. "Any incident in as far as  we can, is being investigated by us. [This] leads to a certain sense among the population that they are not alone.” 
 
Malians appear desperate to restore the democratic values and stability for which their country has long been known. The concern is these elections may create more problems than they solve, with candidates and voters already questioning their very legitimacy. 
 

You May Like

HRW: Egypt's Trial of Morsi ‘Badly Flawed’

Human Rights Watch says former Egypt leader's detention without charge for more than three weeks after his removal from office violated Egyptian law; government rejects criticism More

Photogallery Lancet Report Calls for Major Investment in Surgery

In its report published by The Lancet, panel of experts says people are dying from conditions easily treated in the operating room such as hernia, appendicitis, obstructed labor, and serious fractures More

Music Industry Under Sway of Digital Revolution

Millions of people in every corner of the Earth now can enjoy a vast variety and quantity of music in a way that has never before been possible More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs