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

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

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.
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