Let us keep our eyes on Mali | Jean Luc Stalon

19 Aug 2013

man places vote in box A Malian man votes in a polling station during the presidential election. (Photo: Ezequiel Scagnetti/EU EOM Mali)

Last Sunday, massive numbers of Malians turned out to vote peacefully in the second round of the country’s presidential election.

The ballot, declared by observers as credible and transparent, was nothing short of historic. It marked the end of 18 months of conflict, including a coup and takeover of the North by Tuareg and Islamist insurgents, followed by a French military intervention.

Mali and its people have suffered hugely from this period of violence and uncertainty. More than 470,000 have been displaced, while 1.4 million Malians are in need of immediate food assistance. In much of the North, the government’s presence remains precarious.

With the suspension of the country’s external aid, which accounts for a third of the national budget, and the withdrawal of foreign investors, Mali’s economy fell from an expected 5.6 percent into negative growth last year, with catastrophic consequences for livelihoods and basic social services.

The elections are an expression of the Malian people’s deep resolve to bring the country back to peace, stability, unity and development. Mali’s political stabilization roadmap embodies these aspirations. Through the roadmap, the country committed to free elections and sweeping democratic and social reforms in exchange for unlocking new flows of foreign aid.

The new government faces daunting challenges. Its first task will be to consolidate peace and reconcile groups, movements and communities across the nation, protection of human rights, particularly in the North where an entire administration needs to be put into place and a vast development plan awaits.

Secondly, the country promised to hold legislative elections, reform democratic institutions and the military and build a transparent, accountable and efficient public sector.

Lastly, Mali will need to manage the resumption of aid, working with national and international partners to tackle immediate humanitarian needs, facilitate early recovery and lay the foundation for sustainable peace, stability and put the country back on the development track for the benefit of all Malian people.

Having supported Mali through the elections, UNDP and the UN will stand by the country as it capitalizes on this critical milestone to build a better future for its people. The election was a success. Now is a time for partners to double their efforts, making sure the ballot translates into the realization of this great nation’s full potential.

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