Mali calls off state of emergency ahead of presidential elections


Soldiers of the first Parachute Chasseur Regiment of Pamiers and of the 35th Parachute Artillery Regiment of Tarbes arrive from Mali, at the Toulouse-Blagnac airport, southwestern France, on April 11, 2013. The first French soldiers came back from Mali on April 11, marking the gradual withdrawal of the French troops.


Eric Cabanis

Mali lifted on Saturday its state of emergency ahead of its presidential elections, about six months after France sent troops to help the troubled West African nation defeat armed groups in its northern territory.

The end of the security decree may very well mark a significant step forward for Mali - about to have its first election since a military coup in 2012 - but the head of the electoral commission and others have voiced concern.

"Currently, the big challenge is the distribution of 6,867,443 voters' cards - we have four weeks to do it," said Mamadou Diamoutani. "That job alone is tremendously difficult, given that 800,000 people are displaced or have become refugees."

Last month, as part of a key peace deal, the Tuareg rebels agreed to allow the Malian army into the northern town of Kidal, a move that signaled a security improvement for the elections.

But Tiebile Drame, architect of the Ouagadougou Accord, told Agence France Press earlier this week that the election would still be mismanaged.

"The government is not ready, the minister of territorial administration is not ready, contrary to what he said, and the (election commission) is not ready," Drame said.

France's military intervention came as al Qaeda-linked groups had seized large sections of Mali's north and instituted sharia law, an insurgency complicated by a rebellion of ethnic Tuaregs who have been fighting for autonomy for decades.

Now that most of the Islamist insurgents have been driven out of Mali's cities, much of the nation's hope has been put on a free, fair and stable July 28 elections.