Vote-counting in Mali is currently underway just one day after a presidential election run-off took place, which is expected to provide a fresh start to the troubled West African state. The election, the first to occur since 2007, is seen as crucial in order to unlock more than US $4 billion in aid.
On Sunday, people throughout Mali made their way through heavy rain in order to vote in the presidential run-off that is aimed at restoring democracy and stability after more than a year of turmoil. An electorate of seven million had the choice between former premier Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who won 40% during the first round of voting, and ex-finance minister Soumaila Cisse, who won nearly 20% of the vote. Mali’s 21,000 polling stations opened at 08:00 GMT and closed at 18:00 GMT.
Louis Michel, the head of the European Union’s election observation mission, has indicated that there was “absolutely nothing doubtful or suspicious to report” and that voting had taken place “in good conditions, in a serene, quiet atmosphere,” adding that “whoever is elected will be elected with democratic legitimacy. That is my belief.”
The interim government has until this Friday to make the results of the run-off public, however some observers expect that an announcement may be made sooner. Early signs have indicated that Mr. Keita will likely win the elections. The country of more than 14 million remains the continent’s third-largest gold producer however its US $10.6 billion economy contracted by 1.2 percent last year as widespread poverty contributed to the unrest in the northern regions of the country last year.
Meanwhile in Somalia, reports have emerged that al-Shabaab militants have stolen £480,000 (US $750,00) worth of British government-funded humanitarian materials in supplies. The supplies were in warehouses and were captured during a raid by al-Shabaab militants in 2011 and 2012, however no information on what particular supplies were stolen has been released. The theft, which was revealed in the fine print of the Department for International Development’s (DFID) annual accounts, is likely to fuel concerns pertaining to how Britain is spending its foreign aid at a time when the country is experiencing budget cuts at home.
The accounts describe the “theft between November 2011 and February 2012, by al-Shabaab in southern Somalia, of DFID funded humanitarian materials and supplies from the offices and warehouses of partner or organizations, to which DFID had provided funding to deliver projects and programmes.” The accounts further note that “the DFID’s partners had no prior warning of the confiscations being carried out and therefore had no time to prevent the loss by relocating goods.” The loss, which comes out of more than £80 million of aid that was allocated to Somalia in 2012 – 2013, appears in this year’s accounts because the investigation was only completed in the past twelve months.
In response to the reports, Gerald Howarth, a lawmaker in Prime MInister David Cameroon’s Conservative party, has stated that the theft raised concerns about how this money was being spent, indicating that “there is a huge public concern at the relentless increase in overseas aid. Incidents like this, where British taxpayers‘ money is diverted into people fighting agains us, re not acceptable.”
A spokesman for the DFID has stated that there are always risks with working in unstable countries such as Somalia, but that it was doing everything it could to stop such thefts from occurring. A statement released by the DFID indicated that the company “works in some of the most dangerous places in the world, including Somalia, because tackling the root causes of poverty and instability there ensures a safer world and a safer UK.” The statement further added that “working in conflict-affected and fragile states carries inherent risk. DFID does all it can to mitigate against this but, on occasion, losses will occur.”