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Displaced Malians pin hopes on poll, but not all can vote

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-07-24

At a camp for displaced people near the Malian capital of Bamako, hundreds of residents of northern Mali are eagerly awaiting the July 28 presidential poll. But due to voter registration problems, many may not be able to cast their ballots.

A group of men sip tea under the shade of a tree near the Malian capital of Bamako as the shrieks of children playing rise above the sounds of women cooking in the compound.

These Malian families fled their hometowns in the north more than a year ago when northern Mali fell to a mix of separatist and jihadist groups following the March 2012 military coup.

They have been staying in this Catholic missionary compound since the crisis broke and they are now looking forward to the July 28 presidential election.

While they have not been able to return home, many of them have gone to great lengths to try and vote by getting friends in the north to send their voter identity cards.

“My priest came and told me that my voter ID card had arrived. I was so happy, it was as good as handing me gold. Just look at it,” says Ibrahima Dicko, a 39-year-old teacher from the northern Malian city of Timbuktu, proudly displaying his card.

But there’s a damper on his enthusiasm. “I'm still not sure if I can vote though, because my polling station isn't here," says Dicko.

‘I can't vote for my own president’

In a nation of nearly 16 million people, around 400,000 have been displaced within and outside Mali, raising questions about the country’s ability to hold credible elections.

Despite calls from experts and some Malian officials to postpone the presidential election, the July 28 poll is going ahead on schedule under pressure from France, and to a lesser extent the international community.

In this compound alone, there are about 137 people, many of whom see the election as a vital step to restoring democratic order in their impoverished, conflict-hit country.

"We need to vote for a president because our country today has been destroyed by Islamists, by rebels. Our country needs a president who can control them so that we can live in peace,” says Mariam Douko. “

But most families here do not have the money to travel up north where they have been registered and their hopes of casting their ballots on Election Day are fading.

"I am missing out on what should be my first voting experience,” says 22-year-old Monique Kone. “It’s now that my country needs me but I feel like a stranger in my own country because I can't vote for my own president.”

 

Date created : 2013-07-24

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