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Africa

Reporter's Notebook: Refugees in Mali's Nianama

©

Text by Eve IRVINE

Latest update : 2013-07-24

FRANCE 24 correspondent Eve Irvine reports from a Catholic mission northeast of Bamako, where Malians displaced by violence near the hometowns voice frustration at not being able to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

One year and three months: Mariam can almost count the hours since she arrived at the Catholic missionary of Nianama, 50 kilometres northeast of Bamako.

Like the other 136 displaced people here, she fled the violence in her hometown when Mali's government was ousted in a coup d'état in March 2012.

Today, just days away from presidential polls, the families in this camp see the vote as a sign that they will soon return home to Gao and Timbuktu, but are disappointed that they cannot participate.

"When the pastor told me that he had gotten my voter ID card…it was like he was giving me gold! I was just so happy. But now I don't know if I will even be able to vote, because there are no polling stations for us here," said Diko, who left Timbuktu early last year.

Like others at this camp, he spent a lot of time and effort getting his ID card sent south, but Malians who have been displaced to other parts of the country are still registered in their hometowns.

They now feel it is safe to return, but as they lost their jobs when they fled, they don't have the means to travel the 1,000-plus kilometres to go home.

In May, the government passed laws to allow the displaced to vote wherever they were, but with time constraints and ID issues, not everyone has been able to find a new polling booth.

Twenty-two-year-old Monika was hoping to cast her ballot for the first time. "I feel like a foreigner in my own country, because I can't pick the next president,” she said.

The UN estimates that some 400,000 people have fled their homes since the coup d'état. 174,000 of them are internally displaced – meaning they are still in Mali -- and many of them will have to settle for watching the election from the sidelines.

 

Date created : 2013-07-24

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