Reporter's Notebook: Gao ‘ready’ for election
As final preparations for Mali’s presidential elections got underway, our reporters stopped in the northern city of Gao, where local officials said voters were more than ready to head to the polls.
"Our elderly are ready, our youth are ready, even our cattle are ready," remarked Kada Dada Maiga, spokesman for the board of elders in the northern Malian city of Gao.
Eighty percent of voters registered here had collected their voter ID cards by lunchtime on Friday. A sign of motivation, perhaps, as locals say they need to have a new president before they feel fully free.
Gao’s population arguably suffered the most after it was seized by Islamist rebel forces last year, and has been targeted by a number of suicide attacks since it was liberated on January 26.
Today, there are three lines of defense securing the region: the Malian army and state police, reinforced by forces from the UN, MINUSMA with remaining French troops present as a rapid response unit if needed.
Gao’s mayor, Sadu Diallo, said that although the city is ready for the elections, the date was imposed on the Malian people.
"We are being pushed to hold these elections so that we can get access to the money we need, the money that was pledged to us by the international community but which we cannot have access to until we elect a new president," he explained.
There are 87 polling stations across Gao ready to welcome the city’s 42,000 registered voters.