Fears of election violence in Mali

Tuareg separatist rebels from the NMLA (National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad) drive through a street in Timbuktu, MaliAP

There are fears that violence could mar voting in Mali's presidential elections this weekend.

The first round of presidential elections is due to take place on Sunday and Christian Aid is urging all parties involved in the election to ensure the ballot passes peacefully.

The elections were delayed by a year after the Tuareg insurgency and subsequent military coup that ousted Amadou Toumani Touré last year.

According to the UN, more than 350,000 people have fled their homes since fighting erupted, with some 200,000 people internally displaced within Mali. The Red Cross last month reported that communities in the north are still dependent on aid.

Christian Aid warned that violence would have a "serious impact" on the humanitarian assistance being provided to communities across the country.

Yacouba Kone, Christian Aid's country director in Mali, said: "We are already struggling to operate normally due to the prevailing insecurity. Any violence around the election will make matters far worse."

NGOs operating in Mali have drawn up contingency plans to cope with the outbreak of violence, but Kone said movement would still be limited and supplies may not reach those most in need.

"The north is still reeling from the conflict of the past year, so people there are less likely to take to the streets. But tensions are already running high in the capital Bamako, and other cities such as Kayes, Sikasso and Mopti may well be more volatile," he said.

"At worst, we could see our existing operations disrupted, with many more people needing help if fighting does break out."

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