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Elections in Mali: leave well enough alone

Published : 12 April 2013
540 words in that article

When visiting Gao on Thursday 11 April, Mr. Diango Cissoko, the Malian Prime Minister, confirmed the organization of presidential and parliamentary elections in the country next July, following thus the wishes of international Community and France.

Do we put the cart before the horse?

Many people are criticizing the haste in organizing those elections and they put forward all the reasons that could hamper their legitimacy:

  • The political campaign may revive the tensions between the northern and southern parts of the country;
  • Captain Sanogo, who performed the coup that toppled president Amadou Toumani Touré in March 2012, is still keeping some capacity to cause damage;
  • The number of refugees and displaced people – the UN talk about 430 000 persons – will increase the difficulty to organize the voting operation;
  • The security is not guaranteed on the whole Malian territory. The Malian forces are not able to restore peace in a moment where French troops will gradually leave from the end of April. In July should remain only 2 000 French soldiers compared with the 4 000 currently deployed. The efficiency of AFISMA – which should be transformed in a UN stabilization mission in June – is already questioned.
  • The rain season will begin in June and could complicate the moves in the southern region, where lives 90% of the population…

Is there another credible alternative?

Delaying the elections would not solve any of the above-mentioned problems, except the climatic one.

Ethnic tension between the northern and southern regions will not disappear within months and restoration of security will take a long time. So it is not very likely that refugees and displaced people will come back home very soon.

However, it is of crucial importance to get a President and a Parliament elected by Malians as soon as possible, even if the election itself is not fulfilling all the criteria of a democratic poll. In this precise case, leave well enough alone!

Effectively, the international community needs an elected president – and not a nominated one as it is the case currently – whose legitimacy will allow opening of talks at regional level and will be a guaranty for organization of help necessary to stabilize the country.

The Malians deeply need as well a strong power in order to open negotiations with the Tuareg minority, unique opportunity to pacify durably the country. Without a peaceful relationship between North and South, the size of the country will always favor the implantation of terrorist groups who will reconstitute gradually the stronghold they lost.

Malian forces, even when they will have completed their training period under the European mission EUTM Mali, will be far from being sufficient to face the current Islamic threats in a country big 1.241 million square kilometers. The UN stabilization Mission, created on the basis of AFISMA, will also have a limited efficiency – even with the help of a French rapid reaction force. They consist of heterogeneous elements, equipped with heteroclite armament and variable training level. It will be a positive element if they don’t become in the near future a nuisance.

So the true difficulty of this election is not the lack of time to organize it but to avoid that it will degenerate in intestine quarrels on petty problems.