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

Video Positive Messaging Helps Revamp Ethiopia's Image

In country once connected with war, poverty, famine, headlines now focus on fast-growing economy, diplomatic reputation More

Russian Activist Thinks Kremlin Ordered Nemtsov's Death

Alexei Navalny says comments of Russian liberals who think government wasn't involved are 'nonsense.' More

Video Land Disputes Rise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers 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.
Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Imagei
X
Marthe van der Wolf
March 03, 2015 9:03 PM
Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Positive Messaging Transforms Ethiopia's Image

Ethiopia was once known for famine and droughts. Now, headlines more often point to its fast-growing economy and its emergence as a regional peacemaker. How has Addis Ababa changed the narrative? VOA's Marthe van der Wolf reports.
Video

Video Cyber War Rages Between Iran, US

A newly published report indicates Iran and the United States have increased their cyber attacks on each other, even as their top diplomats are working toward an agreement to guarantee Iran does not develop a nuclear weapon and to free Iran from international sanctions. The development is part of a growing global trend. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video Answers Elude Families of MH370 Passengers

For the families on board Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, an airline official’s statement nearly one year ago that the plane had lost contact with air traffic control at 2:40 AM is the only thing that remains confirmed. William Ide reports.
Video

Video Land Disputes Arise Amid Uganda Oil Boom

Ugandan police say there has been a sharp increase in land disputes, with 10 new cases being reported each day. The claims come amid an oil boom as investors appear to be cashing in by selling parcels of land to multiple buyers. Meanwhile, the people who have been living on the land for decades are chased away, sometimes with a heavy hand. VOA's Serginho Roosblad reports.
Video

Video In Russia, Many Doubt Opposition Leader's Killer Will Be Found

The funeral has been held in Moscow for Boris Nemtsov, the opposition leader who was assassinated late Friday just meters from the Kremlin. Nemtsov joins a growing list of outspoken critics of Russia under the leadership of President Vladimir Putin who are believed to have been murdered for their work. VOA’s Daniel Schearf reports from Moscow.
Video

Video Simulated Astronauts Get Taste of Mars, in Hawaii

For generations, people have dreamed of traveling to Mars to explore Earth's closest planetary neighbor. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports that while space agencies like NASA are planning manned missions to the planet, some volunteers in Hawaii are learning how humans will cope with months in isolation on a Mars base.
Video

Video Destruction of Iraq Artifacts Shocks Archaeologists

The city of Mosul was once one of the most culturally rich and religiously diverse cities in Iraq. That tradition is under attack by members of the Islamic State who have made Mosul their capital city. The Mosul Museum is the latest target of the group’s campaign of terror and destruction, and is of grave concern to archaeologists around the world. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Smartphones May Help in Diagnosing HIV

Diagnosing infections such as HIV requires expensive clinical tests, making the procedure too costly for many poor patients or those living in remote areas. But a new technology called lab-on-a-chip may make the tests more accessible to many. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials have expressed concern over reports of a crackdown on Afghan refugees in Pakistan following the Peshawar school attack in December. Reports of mass arrests and police harassment coupled with fear of an uncertain future are making life difficult for a population that fled its homeland to escape war. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Islamabad.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Prepare to Defend Mariupol

Despite the ongoing ceasefire in Ukraine, soldiers in the city of Mariupol fear that pro-Russian separatists may be getting ready to attack. The separatists must take or encircle the city if they wish to gain land access to Crimea, which was annexed by Russia early last year. But Ukrainian forces, many of them volunteers, say they are determined to defend it. Patrick Wells reports from Mariupol.
Video

Video Moscow Restaurants Suffer in Bad Economy, Look for Opportunity

As low oil prices and Western sanctions force Russia's economy into recession, thousands of Moscow restaurants are expected to close their doors. Restaurant owners face rents tied to foreign currency, while rising food prices mean Russians are spending less when they dine out. One entrepreneur in Moscow has started a dinner kit delivery service for those who want to cook at home to save money but not skimp on quality. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Presidential Hopefuls Battle for Conservative Hearts and Minds

One after another, presumptive Republican presidential contenders auditioned for conservative support this week at the Conservative Political Action Conference held outside Washington. The rhetoric was tough as a large field of potential candidates tried to woo conservative support with red-meat attacks on President Barack Obama and Democrats in Congress. VOA Political Columnist Jim Malone takes a look.
Video

Video Southern US Cities Preserve Civil Rights Heritage to Boost Tourism

There has been a surge of interest in the American civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s, thanks in part to the Hollywood motion picture "Selma." Five decades later, communities in the South are embracing the dark chapters of their past with hopes of luring tourism dollars. VOA's Chris Simkins reports.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More