BAMAKO: Malians voted yesterday in a run-off election and President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is favourite to beat Soumaila Cisse even though ethnic and militant violence has surged during his tenure.
Keita took 41 per cent of the vote in last month’s first round against nearly 18 per cent for Cisse, a former finance minister and the main opposition leader.
The poll was marred by armed attacks and other security incidents that disrupted about a fifth of polling places and the threat of violence could again dampen the turnout.
The chaotic first round was a reminder that militants, some linked to al-Qaeda and Islamic State, have regrouped since a French intervention in 2013 and are now expanding their influence across the desert north and into the fertile centre.
Civil society website Malilink recorded 932 attacks in the first half of 2018, almost double that for all of 2017 and triple 2015. Their activities in Mali and its Sahel neighbours have unnerved Western powers like France and the United States who have deployed thousands of troops across the region.
Jihadists are also stoking inter-communal conflict, mostly between herders and pastoralists. Tit-for-tat killings along ethnic lines have claimed hundreds of civilian lives this year, including at least 11 last week in the central Mopti region. — Reuters