peter tinti

independent journalist

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After war and two elections, Mali has a president

CS Monitor

Former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita wins runoff, paving the way for $4 billion in aid.

Bamako, Mali: Malians weary of war and two rounds of elections sighed with relief Tuesday night when it was announced early that they had a president. The former finance minister, Soumaila Cisse, conceded defeat to the former prime minister, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, despite some qualms.

Mr. Cisse had charged voter irregularity in the hours after Sunday’s runoff vote. But Mr. Keita’s lead was so great in the initial polling that he decided not to contest the outcome and instead visited the winner’s home last evening — and later today announced that he was creating Mali’s first serious opposition party.

That now leaves the West African country with Keita as president, a tough veteran and member of the political elite who is known in Mali as “IBK.”

Keita is regarded as a wily negotiator, a friend of the military, and the choice of the French, the former colonial power, whose troops entered Mali in January to stop the advance of radical Islamist forces at the invitation of the acting Mali government.

Keita was the favorite to win after scoring more than twice the percentage of votes, 40 percent, than did Cisse, who came in at 19 percent. Under Mali election rules (as in France), a runoff is held unless one candidate wins an outright majority.

Last evening, French President François Hollande phoned Keita to congratulate him.

The clear victory also now opens the path for some $4 billion in aid that was tied by donor nations to the completion of fair elections.

A US State Department spokesperson said the elections meant the US government would begin to “normalize our foreign assistance to Mali,” along with more than 100 other states that attended a pledge meeting in May.

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Malians grateful to put elections behind them, after a coup and war

CS Monitor

A runoff vote for president on Sunday saw torrential rains, mud, and long lines in Bamako. But the vote was peaceful and orderly.

Bamako, Mali: Ballot-counting is under way in Mali after voters took to the polls Sunday in the final round of presidential elections that are widely seen as a first step to rebuilding the war-torn West African nation.

Mali forged ahead July 28 with a first round of elections despite calls for a delay by some local politicians and several prominent international NGOs that said it was too early. In January Mali saw a French-led war against Islamic radicals that itself followed a military coup last year.

The July vote saw a record turnout but not an outright majority winner, setting the stage for a runoff between former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and ex-finance minister Soumalia Cissé.

Yesterday’s vote was orderly and peaceful. In the morning, Malians in Bamako braved torrential downpours in the early morning to cast their votes. In muddy courtyards throughout the city, long lines seemed to favor male voters but represented a mix of Mali’s diverse population.

Most women, many with a child in tow, wore new, colorful wax-print outfits purchased for the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Other women dressed in all black with their faces veiled by a niqab, a growing trend among women in some neighborhoods. Businessmen in suits stood next to men in flowing traditional robes, rubbing elbows with youth in skinny jeans and fashionably tight t-shirts.

Results are expected to be finalized as early as Wednesday.

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Battered Mali will vote again Aug. 11 as two veterans face off

CS Monitor

Western nations have linked the elections – which follow Mali’s brief war to oust Islamic militants in the north – to $4 billion in assistance.

Bamako, Mali: Mali’s first elections after French troops arrived in January to drive out Islamic radicals did not yield a first-round winner. The West African nation will put together a runoff vote on Aug. 11.

The two contenders for Mali’s top job, neither of whom received a clear majority of votes, are Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the former prime minister, and Soumaila Cissé, the former finance minister.

The United Nations has called the elections – the first since the brief war with radical Islamists, and the first for president since a coup toppled Mali’s twice-elected government in March 2012 – a critical first step in putting the war-torn county back together. They also linked them to the release of $4 billion in aid.

Mr. Keita, known locally by his initials, IBK, and who is rumored to be the preferred choice among some French and international diplomats, secured 39 percent of the first-round vote on July 28, which saw a record turnout of 51 percent.

Mr. Cissé, a veteran political insider who has run for president before and has served as head of the West African Monetary Union, took 19 percent. Both men are firmly entrenched in Mali’s often-maligned political class.

The announcement of the totals eased tensions in the capital of Bamako, which had grown steadily last week after Col. Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, minister of territorial administration, held a chaotic press conference stating that Keita was likely to win the first round outright.

When only a third of the votes had been counted, several news outlets began reporting a Keita victory as all but inevitable.

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Mali rivals to face off in presidential vote

Al Jazeera

Former prime minister and former finance minister will go head-to-head in second round.

Bamako, Mali - Former prime minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will face former finance minister Soumaila Cissé in an August 11 run-off after failing to win Mali’s presidential election in the first round.

The provisional results round off a week which saw Malians voting for their first president since a coup toppled the twice-elected government in March 2012. Despite lingering security concerns and complaints over a flawed voter registration process, government figures suggest a turnout of 51.54 percent, shattering Mali’s previous record high of 38 percent.

Keita, known locally by his initials, IBK, garnered 39.23 of the first round vote, falling short of the 50 percent needed to win outright. He was, however, well ahead of Cissé, who secured 19.44 percent, said Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, minister of territorial administration.

Friday’s results should help ease tensions after Coulibaly told reporters on Tuesday, before vote-counting had finished, that Keita may exceed the 50 percent threshold. In a chaotic press conference, the minister said that, with one-third of votes counted, Keita held a wide lead over the 27-candidate field.

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Election turnout high in Mali on the heels of war and French-led intervention

CS Monitor

Final results may be known as early as tomorrow, as Malians shrug off a coup and chaos and vote with new ‘biometric’ cards.

Bamako, Mali: Still recovering from a radical Islamist insurgency months ago, Mali plunged ahead Sunday with elections that France and the United States had called for as a condition to release some $4 billion in aid.

Ballot counting is now under way after voters in the West African country turned out in unusually large numbers yesterday, with an outcome expected as early as tomorrow.

These presidential elections come 16 months after a military coup in Mali and six months after a French-led military intervention to liberate the desert north from rebel groups linked to Al Qaeda.

Yesterday’s vote is seen as a critical first step for a poor, landlocked country once wrongly considered a model of democracy. And the vote came amid concerns by local officials and several prominent international NGOs that hastily planned elections might further destabilize an already divided nation.

Others warned elections might put civilians at risk of attack from armed rebel groups in the north.

In the neighborhood of Lafiabougou, in the capital Bamako, lines had formed before polls had opened.

At a separate polling station across town in Hippodrome, a steady stream of voters arrived late into the evening.

APEM, a network of 2,100 Malian election observers, said that 96 percent of polling stations had opened on time and that turnout was “high.” Polls closed without reports of any major incidents.

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Mali Holds Elections After Year of Turmoil

New York Times

Under pressure from France and other Western powers, Mali held a presidential election on Sunday that some observers said the country was not ready for and that risked excluding thousands of its citizens.

Voting went off peacefully, nonetheless, in an election that Mali’s numerous donors deemed crucial to restoring the country’s stability after more than a year of turmoil: an Islamist takeover in the desert north in the spring of 2012; a military coup in the capital; French military intervention to forestall Islamist advances in January; and the flight of nearly 200,000 inhabitants beyond Mali’s borders.

Mali, a poor West African desert nation, has been ruled by a makeshift, unelected government since March 2012, with no parliament, few functioning state institutions and a weak, military junta-approved president. Billions of dollars in aid have been promised by international donors but only if the country has at least the appearance of democracy. That meant proceeding to a hasty election that some of the country’s politicians, research institutes like International Crisis Group, and even the country’s electoral commission warned might be premature.

Still, all over Bamako, the capital, on Sunday, long, orderly lines formed, and citizens dipped their fingers in dye to show that they had voted. Many suggested that, however imperfect, the election would put an end to months of uncertainty.

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High turnout in Mali’s first election since coup

The Independent

As Malians go to the polls, hopes are high the election will bring a better future.

Bamako, Mali – The West African nation of Mali voted in presidential elections on Sunday just 16 months after the country descended into chaos in the wake of a coup led by mid-ranking army officials.

Sunday’s polls are seen as an essential first step for a country once considered a model of democracy, and come just six months after France intervened to liberate northern Mali, a vast desert expanse that fell under the control of rebel groups linked to al-Qa’ida.

The run-up to the elections saw several of the 27 presidential candidates barnstorming across the country, filling local stadiums along the way.

Despite calls for a delay by some local politicians and several prominent international NGOs, Mali forged ahead with elections that the international community, particularly the US and France, had been calling for as a condition to releasing nearly $4bn dollars in pledged aid and assistance.

Yesterday, Malians went to the polls in large numbers. The election observers said in a statement that 96 per cent of polling stations had opened on time and turnout was “high”, without giving further details. Unless a candidate garners more than 50 per cent of the votes outright – an outcome that most observers see as unlikely – a second round run-off will follow on 11 August.

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Mali votes: Views from street

Al Jazeera

As Malians go to the polls, hopes are high the election will bring a better future.

Bamako, Mali - The West African nation of Mali is holding presidential elections on Sunday, in what many see as a crucial first step to stabilising a country rocked by 16 months of war and political turmoil.

The vote takes place amid lingering security concerns and a chaotic voter registration process, prompting many to question if Mali is ready to hold free and fair elections.

Some commentators fear a rushed vote may risk further destabilising an already divided nation. Despite calls for a delay by groups such as the International Crisis Group and Open Society Initiative for West Africa (OSIWA), Mali’s interim government and the international community are determined to go forward with the vote, as $4bn in reconstruction and development assistance is on hold until Mali elects a government deemed legitimate by the international community.

At the centre of the debate are biometric identification cards known by their local acronym, NINA. Mali’s electoral officials and their international counterparts claim that more than 80 percent of the 6.8 million cards have been distributed, a number widely disputed locally.

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Mali has war in January, elections in July. Is this too much?

CS Monitor

Malians vote Sunday with new biometric ID cards in a quickly cobbled-together election that some call ‘shambolic’ and others say is needed.

Bamako, Mali: The West African nation of Mali will hold presidential elections this Sunday, less than seven months after the French military intervened to drive Islamist rebels linked to Al Qaeda in the country’s north.

The West African nation of Mali will hold presidential elections this Sunday, less than seven months after the French military intervened to drive Islamist rebels linked to Al Qaeda in the country’s north.

As Malians prepare to go to the polls, however, a chaotic voter-registration process and lingering security concerns call into question whether the elections will be truly free and fair.

Mali’s interim government and the international community are betting that expedited elections that they have both pushed will help Mali move forward after nearly 18 months of instability.

Speaking to reporters in Paris earlier this month, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon went so far as to say, “The results, even if the election is imperfect, must be respected by all parties.”

With Mali and the broader Sahel increasingly viewed as a place where Al Qaeda and its affiliates, as well as drug traffickers, may try to take advantage of porous borders and weak states, Mali stands as a test case for the international community’s commitment to the region.

Yet many commentators fear that rushed elections risk further destabilizing an already divided nation, and worry that the international community, particularly France and the United States, are favoring elections and the appearance of democracy over stability and good governance.

One Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the elections as a “calculated gamble,” suggesting that delaying the vote would “do little to fix any of the current problems and would potentially pave the way for new ones.”

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Mali: France expected to take control of Timbuktu

The Telegraph

French troops are expected to try to take control of the ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu after pushing al-Qaeda’s allies from their other major urban strongholds across northern Mali.

Konna, Mali: Armed convoys of Malian and French soldiers converged on the outskirts of the ancient trading centre after reports that the city’s Islamist occupiers had fled.

Diplomatic sources said immediate attempts to secure Timbuktu were “on hold” as specialist French forces assessed risks that militant commanders had ordered the city’s mud-walled buildings and narrow streets booby-trapped as they left.

Mali’s army and its French allies were not expected to face significant resistance in the city however, following accounts that Ansar Dine, the al-Qaeda-linked militants that held it since April last year, had fled early on Saturday.

Timbuktu was one of three major cities in northern Mali, along with Gao and Kidal, that the group controlled until the French operation to push them back began earlier this month.

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African Leaders Prepare for Military Intervention in Northern Mali

Voice of America

BAMAKO — High-level delegations from the United Nations, West African bloc ECOWAS, and the African Union met with Malian leaders Friday to develop a coherent strategy for tackling the crisis in northern Mali, where al-Qaida linked militant groups have taken control.

Mali’s interim President Dioncounda Traore urged representatives from ECOWAS, the African Union, European Union, United Nations and other key partners to act immediately in addressing the deteriorating situation in the north.

Traore assured attendees of the total cooperation of the Malian government, and said it would not falter because those present were there as friends, brothers and partners at a time when the pooling of resources is the only response to the security challenges that Mali is facing.

Traore described the situation as a “race against time” against a “common enemy” and said that these challenges represent a risk for the Sahel, for West Africa, for the Sahara, for Africa and for the world.

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Mali Military Intervention Support Growing

Voice of America

BAMAKO — High-level delegations from the United Nations, West African bloc ECOWAS, and the African and European Unions meet with Malian leaders Friday to hammer out details for proposed military intervention to retake Mali’s north.

In Mali’s capital city of Bamako Men gather every morning at roadside newspaper vendors to debate the headlines, more specifically, what to do about the north dominates discussion.

The territory fell to al-Qaida-linked Islamist militants in April amid the chaos that followed a March 22 coup in the south.

As the crisis drags on, hopes for a negotiated solution appear to be fading.  What was once fierce resistance to the prospect of foreign troops in Mali appears to be waning.

Many in Bamako say they worry that Mali’s army is still too disorganized and poorly equipped to take back the region alone.

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