US ambassador to UN urges Mali to hold February elections

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DAKAR, Senegal (AP) — The United States representative to the United Nations stressed the importance of Mali’s return to civilian rule through democratic elections in February after she visited the West African nation as part of a U.N. Security Council mission.

Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield spoke to reporters online Friday from Libreville, Gabon, after visiting Mali and Niger.

“We reiterated that the United States continues to stand firmly with the people of Mali in their aspirations for democracy, peace, development and respect for human rights,” she said of her meetings with Mali’s transitional government and civil society groups.

A military junta staged a coup in August 2020, overthrowing Mali’s democratically elected president. Col. Assimi Goita led the coup and is now president of the transitional government. He has pledged to keep the country on track to return to civilian rule with an election in February 2022.

“We were very clear as the Security Council in Mali, that they needed to put in place immediately plans to move forward on the election,” Thomas-Greenfield said, adding that the February date was actually set by the transitional government themselves.

She said she is hopeful that Goita and other transitional officials listened to the 15-member Security Council mission and will put in place a timeline to the February elections.

However, after the meetings with the U.N. Security Council mission, Malian authorities said they want to organize days of consultations in December amongst Malian groups to determine a path toward elections. Some fear this may delay the elections.

The ambassador affirmed that U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is interested in Africa.

“We are committed to this continent. We are engaging with the continent,” noting bright spots such as Niger, which experienced its first peaceful transfer of power to an elected president, and Ghana which has had ongoing democratic transitions of power.

While in Gabon, Thomas-Greenfield is meeting with President Ali Bongo Ondimba to discuss climate issues and congratulated him on the country’s recent election to a term on the Security Council.

Bongo will be attending the U.N conference on climate change, known as COP26, in Glasgow as a representative of the African, she said.

During her trips to the West African countries, Thomas-Greenfield also viewed the deliveries of COVID-19 vaccines from the U.S. to Mali and Gabon. The U.S. has also donated vaccines to Niger.

“This has been a very productive trip, one of a series of recent senior-level engagements in Africa, and I was proud to reaffirm our commitments with our partners in Mali, Niger and Gabon,” she said.

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