Mali: The opposition leader was kidnapped just before the legislative elections

Malian opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé was kidnapped during the campaign for the legislative elections, the outstanding kidnapping of a national figure of this stature in the country obsessed with violence and jihadist attacks.

Soumaïla Cissé (70), the second time three times in the presidential election, went on Wednesday with a delegation of a dozen people aboard two SUVs at his polling station in Niafounké, Timbuktu region, when the convoy attacked by gunmen and hitherto unidentified, said the party he chaired on Thursday.

His bodyguard was killed, two other members of his entourage were injured, Demba Traore, an official of the Union for the Republic and Democracy, told the Bamako press ().

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Five or six of the members of the group, including two or three injured according to sources, arrived in Niafounké on Thursday morning, apparently released.

The others, including Mr. Cisse, are “at the moment of the attacks,” Demba Traoré said.

We don’t know who they are. The area is an area where jihadists affiliated with Al Qaeda operate. They are “armed men, to us still unidentified, we must be clear,” said Demba Traoré.

A Niafounké official, whom he chose not to name and whose two relatives were part of the delegation and is now “free but injured”, meant “a radical who opposes the election”.

In a statement confirming the kidnapping, the government says nothing about its possible perpetrators, but assures that “all practical arrangements are made to find the missing persons and bring them back to their families”.

The UN mission in Mali indicated that it participated in the search by helicopter and was “available for further assistance” as requested by the Malian authorities.

The President’s Commitment

Mali has experienced a number of kidnappings since the beginning of the serious security crisis it has undergone since 2012, whether they are Malays or foreigners, of which we remain without news. Depending on the case, the abduction has different motives.

With Soumaïla Cissé, this is the first time an abduction has touched on a Malian figure of such stature. He was the presidency general secretary, several times minister and unsuccessful candidate in the second round of the 2018 presidential election again. He has held senior positions in the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Uemoa).

His abduction is a new illustration of the multifaceted security breakdown that plagues not only Mali but also the Sahel.

Separatist and now jihadist insurgencies led by groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Islamic State organization, as well as violence between the communities have left thousands of people dead and hundreds of thousands displaced. Departing from northern Mali, the violence spread to the center of the country, then to neighboring countries Burkina Faso and Niger.

Outstanding beaches from the Malian territory flee from state authority.

Security is an essential part of the legislative elections organized on Sunday. They are seen as an important part of the political effort without which Bamako and his allies agree that military action will probably be in vain.

The choice of election looks complicated in some parts of the territory. Votes were also raised to postpone the vote because of coronavirus, whose first case was officially declared this week.

President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta declared a state of health on Wednesday night, which is in conjunction with the security situation already in force. He announced the creation of a night curfew. But the election “will be held on March 29,” he said.

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