Mali Decides Voters to go to the polls Sunday in troubled Mali

On Sunday, voters will elect 12,000 councillors in communes throughout the country, two years later than originally scheduled, as the government wrestles with implementing a peace deal and warding off the stubborn jihadist threat in the north.

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Residents listen to candidates speaking during a public meeting in Bamako on November 4, 2016, on the start of the campaigning for the municipal elections play On Sunday, voters will elect 12,000 councillors in communes throughout the country, two years later than originally scheduled, as the government wrestles with implementing a peace deal and warding off the stubborn jihadist threat in the north. (AFP/File)
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Campaigning ended on Friday ahead of Mali's first elections since 2013, the year international forces came in to tackle a rebel surge which threatened to split the country in two.

On Sunday, voters will elect 12,000 councillors in communes throughout the country, two years later than originally scheduled, as the government wrestles with implementing a peace deal and warding off the stubborn jihadist threat in the north.

Residents listen to candidates speaking during a public meeting in Bamako on November 4, 2016, on the start of the campaigning for the municipal elections play

Residents listen to candidates speaking during a public meeting in Bamako on November 4, 2016, on the start of the campaigning for the municipal elections

(AFP/File)

The election campaigning has been marked by bitter opposition criticism of the government and calls for a voter boycott.

Despite the presence of numerous candidate posters in Bamako, and the organisation of campaign rallies, there has been little enthusiasm in the capital for the first elections since August 2013, when President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was voted in.

Islamic rebels have prevented campaigning and posters in some parts of the north.

Opposition head Soumaila Cisse has called for a further delay to the voting, citing the "serious concerns of populations in the north and centre of the country faced with growing insecurity which has seriously hampered the smooth running of the campaign".

In January 2013, French troops were deployed to repel Al-Qaeda-aligned jihadists who had overrun several northern towns, joining forces with Tuareg-led rebels.

Some 11,000 UN military and police followed, but the jihadists were never defeated -- merely displaced.

Last year, Mali's rebel alliance signed a peace deal along with government and loyalist militias.

It was hoped that the deal would bring stability to the northern desert, cradle of several Tuareg uprisings and a sanctuary for Islamist fighters.

But since then, rival armed groups have repeatedly violated the ceasefire, threatening attempts to give the north a measure of autonomy that might help prevent separatist uprisings.

Tribal rivalries and banditry have also deteriorated the security situation in the north, where many children are at risk of malnutrition.

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