Voice of America (Washington, DC)

2 April 2014

Malians Optimistic About Country's Direction

Malians are optimistic about the direction of their country after last year's election of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, according to an Afrobarometer survey released this week.

Afrobarometer is an African-led network of social scientists that conducts regular public opinion surveys in about 35 African countries.

Mike Bratton, a lead researcher of the Mali poll says the survey showed that nearly seven out of 10 Malians (67%) say the country is moving in the right direction.

The poll was conducted in 2013 following a peace agreement that ushered in stability in parts of the country's north that were strongholds of Islamic insurgents.

The survey, Bratton says was an effort to try and assess the state of public opinion following the peace agreement that allowed Mali's national army to take charge of the country's north where Islamic militants controlled.

"What we found was there has been a considerable shift in the public mood. Whereas at the end of December 2012, 75 percent of Malians thought the country was going in the wrong direction. By December 2013 67 percent or two-thirds now thought that the country was going in the right direction, and remarkably, even in the north even higher proportions thought that the country was going in the right direction," said Bratton.

He outlined some of the reasons that led to what he described as "a rebirth of optimism" among many Malians.

"One of the main factors is safety and security," said Bratton. "About 60 percent of Malians now think that the country as a whole is safe and secure. This contrasts very strongly with the way they felt in 2012 when only 17 percent thought the country was safe and secure. It should be noted, however that people in the north are much more cautious. Only 44 percent think the country is safe and secure."

Political instability as well as food insecurity was the major worry Malians wanted the new administration to urgently address during the polling period, according to Bratton.

Malians, Bratton says blame the influx of foreign militants for the country's recent crisis.

"They also mentioned other factors such as the weakness of the state and the corruption of the previous government. They also raised the issue of drug trafficking and they said both ethnic rebels and religious jihadists were involved in this drug trade," said Bratton.

He says the survey shows that Malians are hopeful the new government will implement economic measures to improve the lives of the citizens.

Mali was plunged into crisis following the overthrow of Amadou Toumani Toure's administration in 2012.

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