With days to go before Mali’s presidential poll, our reporters have stopped in a town south of Gao which fell under rebel control during the Islamist occupation last year. The villagers here are convinced this election will be different from others.
Lush green fields line the road between Douentza and Gao. The route has changed a lot since these two towns were freed from the control of Islamist rebels on January 20th and 26th, respectively.
Today a French military convoy is rolling north with supplies but the Malian manned checkpoints have become few and far between. The road remains quiet but there are signs of life all along it: delivery trucks, busy market stalls and kids playing.
In Hombori, the town where two French men were abducted in November 2011, a group of some 35 locals have just finished a day of training, finding out what they need to do when they oversee the polling stations here on Sunday.
Amadou and Baba, both in their early 20s proudly show off their delegate badges and t-shirts. They are looking forward to Sunday when they are convinced they will see more people coming to the polls than ever before in Mali's past elections.
"After what we've just been through, I think everyone is motivated to go out and help chose the right man for the job, the man who can make sure the rebels don't come back," Amadou insists.
Voter turnout for presidential polls has never exceeded 40% in Mali. In 2007, one in four votes had to be thrown out.
Date created : 2013-07-26