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Presidential runoff characterized with security crisis in Mali

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Malians were called to the ballot box on Sunday for a presidential runoff likely to see Ibrahim Boubacar Keita return to office despite criticism of his handling of the country’s security crisis.

The second round is a rerun of a 2013 faceoff that Keita won by a landslide over former finance minister Soumaila Cisse.

This year’s campaign saw fierce attacks on his failure to dampen a wave of jihadist bloodshed and ethnic violence.

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But public enthusiasm has been low and the opposition is fractured.

Keita, 73, was credited with 41.7% of the July 29 first-round vote while Cisse, 68, picked up 17.78%.

Cisse insisted on Friday he could turn things around on polling day – warning the status quo would only bring “chaos” in a “torn nation.”

But he failed to unite the opposition behind him, and first-round challengers have either backed the president or refused to give voting instructions.

Few Malians attended a string of planned marches and protests called for by opposition leaders in the capital Bamako ahead of the run-off.

As a result, Keita, commonly named “IBK” after his initials, is the clear favourite.

A few hundred Keita supporters gathered late on Friday in the capital of Bamako for the last meeting of the campaign.

“He needs to finish what he started,” Silandou Soumare, a civil servant said. “With all Malians on board, we can have peace in Mali!”

In 2013, Keita won more than three-quarters of the vote.

Voting will be open from 0800 to 1800 GMT. Turnout was low in the first round of voting at around 40%.

The first round was peppered by violent attacks and threats from armed groups that led to several hundred polling stations being closed, mainly in the lawless central region.

Security services said on Saturday they had disrupted a plot to carry out “targeted attacks” in the capital Bamako on the eve of the runoff.

Three members of a “commando” cell who were planning attacks had been arrested, the security services said in a statement, adding that the trio were also suspected of involvement in a robbery which left three people dead in 2016.

Security will be tightened for the second round, an aide in the prime minister’s office said, with 20% more soldiers on duty.

This means 36 000 Malian military will be deployed, 6 000 more than two weeks earlier, with a particular focus on the Mopti region in the centre of the country where voting stations had been closed, Cheick Oumar said.

The three main opposition candidates mounted a last-ditch legal challenge to the first-round result, alleging ballot-box stuffing and other irregularities. But their petition was rejected by the Constitutional Court.

Cisse’s party said in the early hours of Sunday that ballot papers were already circulating, several hours before polls opened.

Outside Mali, the hope is that the winner will strengthen a 2015 accord that the fragile Sahel state sees as its foundation for peace.

The deal brought together the government, government-allied groups and former Tuareg rebels.

But a state of emergency heads into its fourth year in November.

Jihadist violence has spread from the north to the centre and south of the vast country and spilled into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, often inflaming communal conflicts.

France still has 4 500 troops deployed alongside the UN’s 15 000 peacekeepers and a regional G5 Sahel force, aimed at rooting out jihadists and restoring the authority of the state.

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Motherland News

Families Identify Church Collapse Victims in Anguish

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Tears and anguish characterized the atmosphere as the grieving families of 13 worshipers killed in a church collapse arrived at the Richards Bay mortuary to identify the bodies of their loved ones.

The worshipers died when a wall collapsed at the Pentecostal Holiness Church near Empangeni in northern KwaZulu-Natal last Thursday night.

The KwaZulu-Natal Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department co-ordinated with various departments including health, home affairs and the police, to assist in speeding up the body identification process.

Six worshippers were from Ulundi, four from eSikhawini and three from Maqwakazi in uMlalazi.

Describing the collapse, Phumelele Simelane from eSikhawini said worshippers had just had their evening meal and were preparing to sleep when the wall caved in.

Simelane was with her 6-year-old son, who is recovering in hospital. She said she came to the mortuary to support congregants whose relatives died.

The Mthembu family, who lost grandmother Thembi Mthabela, 54, and Andiswa Mthembu, 10, in the tragedy were overcome with grief.

“Thembi loved going to church and she always took Andiswa with her. Andiswa was doing Grade 3 at Nyathini Primary School. As a family, we are very traumatised and it is hard for us,” said a relative, who did not wanted to be named.

Buhle Mzila, whose sister Samke, 33, died, said the family had lost a breadwinner.

Samke, who worked at the Ulundi Municipality, was with her 9-year-old daughter during the incident.

Buhle said her niece, who was in hospital, was in a state of shock about her mother’s death.

“Samke loved the church, she always made sure she attended every service. She played a big role in terms of assisting the family. We are still going to feel her absence,” said Buhle.

A sobbing Mbongeni Langa said his mother had died in a “place she loved”.

The memorial service will be held tomorrow

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Motherland News

CAF Sidelines Nigerian Centre Referees for 2019 AFCON

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Out of the Twenty-seven centre referees penciled down for the 2019 African Cup of Nations, countries like Burundi, Mali, Zambia and Sudan are represented on the list, but no Nigerian referee was selected for the big occasions.

However, only one assistant referee from Nigeria named Baba Adel was listed among the twenty-nine assistant referees selected by the African Football Governing Body.

The competition will be held from 21 June to 19 July 2019, as per the decision of the CAF Executive Committee on 20 July 2017.

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