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Mali accuses French IDEMIA of obstruction, postpones elections

Tuesday, 26 September 2023 18:07
Mali accuses French IDEMIA of obstruction, postpones elections

(Ecofin Agency) - The presidential election in Mali, initially scheduled for February 4 and 18, 2024, has been postponed. The transitional government explained this delay in a statement, citing technical reasons, including the "hostage-taking" of a database by the French company IDEMIA, to which the government refuses to pay CFA5 billion.

Mali's presidential election will be postponed, according to an official statement on September 25. Authorities said they need more time to deal with technical issues related to the integration of new constitutional provisions into the electoral law. They also have to take into account the annual revision of electoral lists in the electoral register starting in January 2024. However, the main reason for this postponement, they point out, is the "hostage-taking" of the Administrative Census for Civil Status (RAVEC) database by the French service provider IDEMIA.

The company is demanding 5.2 billion CFA francs ($8.4 million) from the government before granting access to the database. However, Bamako is opposed to this request, citing an audit of the contract which revealed 15 irregularities.

Now, Malian authorities plan to use a different system, the details of which have not been disclosed. On the instructions of Colonel Assimi Goïta (pictured), President of the Transition and Head of State, the government has initiated administrative procedures to "quickly switch our database to another system that will be exclusively controlled by Mali, without any risk of data theft or hostage-taking."

IDEMIA, a French digital security company specializing in biometrics, identification, and authentication, and highly active in the digital sector in West Africa, had already been mentioned in an investigation two years ago. According to the Maliko association (comprising several Malian civil society organizations), the company reportedly benefited from the support of former French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, who allegedly used his influence with former President IBK in 2015 to secure the contract for manufacturing Malian passports, replacing a Canadian company. However, these allegations did not lead to any formal legal proceedings.

While no new date has been announced by the transitional government for the election, it can reasonably be assumed that it will only take place once the database issue is resolved. For now, it is difficult to predict how long this will take, although the government's statement seeks to reassure citizens. In the meantime, opponents of Assimi Goïta accuse him of intending to remain in power for as long as possible.

On September 14, Malian activist Adama Diarra, known as "Ben Le Cerveau," was sentenced to two years in prison, with one year suspended, for "harming the state's credit." This conviction came after he publicly called on the transitional authorities to honor their commitment to hold elections according to the planned schedule.

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ECOFIN AGENCY offers a selection of articles translated from AGENCE ECOFIN. Founded in 2011, Agence Ecofin is a leader in Francophone Pan-African economic news, particularly in West and Central Africa. The agency publishes daily news on nine African economic sectors: Public Management, Finance, ICT, Agribusiness, Energy, Mining, Transport & Logistics, Communication, and Training.

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