Voice of America (Washington, DC)

West Africa: Ecowas Mission Assesses Mali Situation Before Vote

A team of officials from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is in Mali to assess the security and political situation in the approach to the country's July 28 presidential election.

Sonny Ugoh, the ECOWAS communications director, said the fact finding mission is part of the regional bloc's plans to restore constitutional rule in Mali and maintain its territorial integrity.

"This is consistent with the requirement of our protocol on democracy and good governance... ," Ugoh said.

His comments came after Burkinabe's foreign minister, Djibril Bassole, said the Malian government and ethnic Tuareg rebels had agreed "in principle" on a deal that would allow elections to take place next month and the army to return to the rebel-held city of Kidal.

Ugoh says ECOWAS supports Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore as mediator of the peace talks between Mali's government and the Tuareg rebels.

Mali wants to retake control in Kidal, which the Tuareg separatist group MNLA seized earlier this year after French forces ousted Islamist militants who had controlled northern Mali for 10 months.

Ugoh says the ECOWAS fact finding mission will draw up recommendations on what the regional bloc can do to ensure a peaceful vote, particularly in areas of northern Mali where security is still tenuous.

"If in evaluating the conditions for the elections, there is a determination that we will require to support Mali, there would be a recommendation to that effect and the region will have to work with Mali to make sure that those challenges are addressed," Ugoh said.

He said ECOWAS plans to send in a team of observers to monitor the balloting.

"We are hoping that we will have an election observation mission in place at least two weeks before this exercise takes place," Ugoh said.

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