Defiant Mali President, Keita Insists On Holding Election Amidst COVID-19 Pandemic

*President of Mali, Ibrahim Keita

The president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, is insisting that the second round of a parliamentary election earlier scheduled for April 19 will go ahead despite the need for social distancing as advised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a precautionary measure of curbing the ravaging Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandamic.

However, he has gone ahead to announce what his government called “a coronavirus aid package for poor people and hard-hit firms,” as cases of COVID-19 pandemic continue to rise in the war-torn West African state. The president warned at the weekend that the country’s already war-battered economy was facing a shock and declared a package worth some 500 billion CFA francs ($832 million).

He said, “The government of Mali… is willing to make the greatest sacrifice to lessen the negative impact of the pandemic on our economy and society.” Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and has been struggling since 2012 to stop a jihadist insurgency that has killed thousands of soldiers and civilians. The conflict, which has left swathes of the country outside state control – has aggravated fears that Mali is ill-prepared to tackle a large coronavirus outbreak.

So far, the Malian authorities have recorded 87 cases in the country, with seven deaths. The government had previously declared a nationwide night-time curfew and closed land borders. Warning of the steep economic costs associated with the pandemic, Keita said Friday that the government would shoulder water and electricity bills for the poorest people in April and May, among other measures.

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