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Opinion:
Melissa BELL

Melissa BELL
International Correspondent

The Road to Mali

Le 23-03-2012

Our journey began in the early hours of the morning on the democratic side of West African politics.

Dakar is, on the last day of campaigning before the second round of the presidential poll, in full democratic bloom. The toll road that leads south west through its suburbs and slums is lined by posters and grafitti that have flowered increasingly brightly and growingly bitterly as the race has narrowed down to a two horse battle that incumbent Abdoulaye Wade might well lose. The question on everyone's lips in Senegal is just how he would react to such an outcome. A graceful acceptance speech is not widely expected should the vote go against the 85-year-old who is seeking a third term despite the two term limit imposed by his own constitution.

But at least the vote here in Senegal is going ahead.

At the end of our road lies Bamako, the capital of Mali. A vote was due there in two months time but the military have seen fit to take matters into their own hands, driven to rebellion themselves as the fight with the rebels of the north has grown more difficult.

On Wednesday, a small group of fairly low-ranking officers took control of the airwaves as a first step to taking control of the country. Now the whereabouts of the country's president, Amadou Toumani Toure, aka ATT, are unknown. As are the precise plans of the officers now in charge.

And so we have left one west african country in the grips of democratic fever for its neighbour in the throws of a coup d'etat that few had seen coming.

The road from Dakar to Bamako is long. And hot. As we've inched closer to the Malian border, sparse and bear vegetation has grown thicker and greener. What lies ahead is unclear but the road stands as a reminder of the fragility of democracy in these parts and how easily it can be left behind altogether.
 

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