UN chief urges peaceful presidential poll in Mali

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UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has sued for a peaceful presidential election in Mali as the country goes to the poll to elect a new president on Sunday.

Guterres, in a statement in New York by Farhan Haq, Deputy Spokesman for the Secretary-General, said he was closely following developments in Mali ahead of the presidential election.

Incumbent President Ibrahim Keïta is seeking a second and final five-year term.

There are 23 other presidential candidates, including Soumaila Cisse who faced him in a run-off in the last election, former Prime Minister Modibo Sidibe, Dramane Dembele, retired Brig.-Gen. Moussa Sinko Coulibaly, and a woman candidate, Djeneba N’Diaye.

Eight million people are eligible to vote in the election and a candidate must get more than 50 per cent of the vote to win.

If not, a run-off is held between the two candidates with the most votes, while the winner of the run-off only needs a simple majority.

The UN chief said the election was important for peace and reconciliation in Mali.

The Secretary-General said he was encouraged by the overall peaceful climate that has characterised the electoral campaign to date, in spite of continued security challenges in the north and center of the country.

He called on voters in the arid African country of around 18 million, to maintain the peaceful course and ensure that the key poll was first and foremost “an important celebration of democracy”.

Guterres urged all political actors in Mali to commit to making the poll a peaceful, free and transparent process, and to resolve any possible dispute through the appropriate institutions in accordance with the law.

The Secretary-General stressed that peace and reconciliation for all Malian citizens must prevail, irrespective of the electoral outcome.

The UN chief reiterated the commitment of the United Nations to supporting the electoral process in Mali.

The UN Stabilisation Mission in the country has been busy providing logistical support to the Government, especially in the restive north and centre, where an alliance of militant Islamists and Tuareg rebels have been launching attacks with increasing frequency and ferocity against government troops and UN peacekeepers.

When Keïta was elected in 2013, his administration replaced a transitional government which had wrested back control – with international support – of the outlying regions following a failed coup, that saw the iconic and ancient city of Timbuktu occupied by militants.

Dozens of UN peacekeepers have made the ultimate sacrifice defending Mali’s fragile recovery in recent years.

On Friday, the head of UN mission, Mahamat Annadif, said that while tensions were high and the threat of attacks persisted, the result had to be respected if democratic rule was to be viewed as “irreversible”.

The mission has been providing transportation to candidates, training and support for officials involved in the democratic process, and distributed 200 tonnes of electoral material, mainly to remote areas where the political process is most vulnerable to abuse, and voters are most likely to feel intimidated going to the polls. (NAN)

Biola Lawal

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