AFRICA/MALI - "The municipal elections mark a step forward", says the secretary of the Episcopal Conference

Thursday, 24 November 2016 elections   armed groups   caritas  

Bamako (Agenzia Fides) - "Despite the difficulties that Mali still has, the political process continues", says to Agenzia Fides Fr. Edmond Dembele, Secretary General of the Episcopal Conference of Mali, commenting on the municipal elections held on November 20. "After the presidential elections in 2013 and the legislative elections in 2014, this year the municipal elections were finally held, which had been postponed twice".
"Unfortunately in some northern areas some soldiers lost their lives because of attacks by armed groups who did not reach a peace agreement with the government. But now the situation is calm and the counting of votes continues", says the priest.
Fr. Dembele emphasizes that also in terms of peace there are signs of improvements. "Last week an armed Peul group, the Alliance nationale pour la sauvegarde de l'identité peule et la restauration de la justice (ANSIPRJ), announced plans to lay down their arms. In addition to Toureg armed groups and northern Islamists, Peul groups have formed recently in the center of the Country, under Islamist influence. These groups say they intend to defend the Peul from army attacks".
The Peul are nomadic shepherds who live in several West African countries, particularly in Mali, Burkina Faso, Guinea and Nigeria. "In Mali - says Fr. Dembele -, the Peul are present mainly in the central part, in the region of Mopti and Ségou. Several of them have joined the Islamist groups in particular, MUJAO (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, a dissident group released by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb AQIM). During the crisis which broke out in 2012, when Toureg groups and then Islamists conquered the north of Mali, the Peul claim to have been victims of military violence. For this reason 'self-defense groups' to defend this ethnic group have recently been established".
The Church accompanied the electoral process thanks to the efforts of the local Caritas that formed several hundred electoral observers. "This was done for the presidential and parliamentary elections, and even in this election Mali Caritas sent observers where it was possible", says Fr. Dembele. "Despite the fact that in some areas of the north, such as Kidal and a part of Gao and Tombouctou, elections were not held because of the presence of armed groups, the Government established, in the peace agreement, to install temporary administrations in these municipalities.
I think that within a year even here elections will be held", concludes the priest.
From the first results published so far, the majority in power is in the lead throughout most of the Country. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 24/11/2016)