Are Touareg rebels plotting to sabotage Mali's electoral process?

Six electoral officials were abducted on Saturday by armed men while they were preparing to start distributing voters' identity cards in the northern town of Tessalit, about 200 km from the flashpoint town of Kidal in northern Mali. On Sunday morning, military sources said the five officials of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) as well as the deputy mayor of Tessalit were found by the French forces.
Touareg rebels in Mali. Net photo.
Touareg rebels in Mali. Net photo.

Six electoral officials were abducted on Saturday by armed men while they were preparing to start distributing voters' identity cards in the northern town of Tessalit, about 200 km from the flashpoint town of Kidal in northern Mali. On Sunday morning, military sources said the five officials of the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI) as well as the deputy mayor of Tessalit were found by the French forces. No information was given regarding the circumstances under which the Malian hostages were found.  Even though officially the identity of the kidnappers is not known, fingers are pointing at members of the rebel group National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), which fights for Mali's minority Tuareg people.

The Touareg rebels have defended themselves against the allegations. "We have allowed the elections to go on," a representative of the group affirmed. Regardless of who had organized the kidnapping of the electoral officials, the act has disrupted the electoral process in Kidal region.  Can the elections be peacefully organized in Kidal region in conformity with the Ouagadougou Peace Agreement? This is the question most Malians were asking themselves after the attacks that occurred on Thursday night last week and the kidnapping of the electoral officials organizing the first round of the presidential elections.

Despite the liberation of the hostages after the intervention of the French forces, the acts will negatively affect the elections. Analysts have observed that the rebels, who were bound by the Ouagadougou agreement which stipulated that the elections should be held across the country, have now started engaging in acts of intimidation. The abduction of the electoral officials is therefore seen as a strategic move by the rebels. It's clear that without the distribution of voters' cards, there will be no elections in this region.

An African diplomat accredited to Bamako told Xinhua that "the rebels were unhappy with the Ouagadougou agreement and that is why they have resorted to targeting the electoral officials in their intimidation campaign whose main objective is to sabotage the electoral process in the region." This view is shared by many political actors and Malian government officials, even though they do not wish to officially talk about it, not only because no one has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, but also the hostages have been set free. "To intimidate and make the voters fear is the campaign that the MNLA rebels are engaged in today.

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