The dangers of rushing Mali elections
The dangers of rushing Mali elections IRIN
IRIN on Friday, June 7, 2013
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As international donors, notably France and the USA, as well as the Economic Community of West African States, push for July presidential elections in Mali, critics say doing so could foment factionalization in the north thus further destabilizing it, threaten ongoing negotiations over Kidal town, and hamper reconciliation and dialogue. IRIN spoke to analysts, citizen activists and would-be voters to glean their views.

It is clear why certain outsiders are pushing for elections, said Jamie Bouverie in Africa Report: France needs to put in place a legitimate authority to enable it to declare the Mali problem over; the US requires a democratically elected authority to restart its aid and investments; and the UN requires a legitimate partner for MINUSMA, its stabilization mission.

“Conducting elections is the only realistic way,” said Paul Melly, associate fellow at think tank Chatham House. “If there were no restoration of democratic structures, the country would not get international aid and would struggle to cooperate with others countries.”

Some Malians agree. Maimouna Dagnoko, a trader in Bamako, told IRIN: “The government must do all it can to hold these elections in July. Only through them can we put in place a legitimate authority which can take charge. The longer the transition government persists, the further we sink into the abyss.”

But while all agree that elections are needed, many say rushing them will further destabilize Mali. Inter-communal violence, suicide attacks and roadside bombs recur in the north, while France plans to bring its troop count down to 1,000 (from 4,000 in April) by election month, creating a security vacuum, some say. While MINUSMA is set to fully deploy in July it will take time to establish itself.

“What makes elections highly complicated is the situation in the north - not only Kidal, which gets most of the attention, but in Ménaka, Gao and Timbuktu, which have not been sorted out,” said Yvan Guichaoua, international politics lecturer at the University of East Anglia, mentioning the continuation of exactions against light-skinned people in parts of the north - inter-communal violence between the Movement for the National Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) and Arab fighters in Ber (Timbuktu Region) and Anefis (in Kidal Region). “Distrust between communities is still very high. Just think back to the 1992 national pact, which was ambitious but still led to three more years of communal violence.”

The Kidal question remains controversial: Malian troops this week wrested control of Anefis, midway between Gao and Kidal town, as part of a military offensive that is assumed to aim to take back Kidal Region from the MNLA. This offensive will have stymied the Burkina Faso-led negotiations currently under way between members of the MNLA, the High Council of Azawad (formerly of MNLA and then Ansar Dine) and the Malian authorities.

                           
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