Mali local government administrators in the forefront of organising next month’s presidential election launched a seven-day strike demanding more security and allowances, two unions representing them said.
The administrators, who hold the rank of prefects or sub-prefects, are government’s representatives at local level. They are in charge of organising the July 29 vote, and said the strike will last until at least July 1, after talks with government collapsed over the weekend.
“We are concerned about our safety and working conditions. We requested benefits in accordance with regulations, but have not been listened to,” said Olivier Traore, secretary general of one union.
The strike comes against a backdrop of growing security concerns and instability ahead of the election and could impact organisation of the vote. France told Mali’s government to react strongly after at least 16 Fulani herders were killed in the latest suspected ethnic clash.
Unions are also asking for increased security for members’ offices and homes.
Ousmane Christian Diarra, a senior official of another union, said 54 prefects, their deputies and 285 sub-prefects walked out on Monday and the strike was followed by almost 100% of administrators across Mali.
“If at the end of the seven days we are not satisfied, as we said in the notice, the strike will be renewed automatically and will be unlimited until full satisfaction of our demands,” Diarra said.
He added the strike could impact election preparation, including distribution of voter cards, done by the administrators. It will paralyse the central administration.
Distribution of cards started on June 20 and is expected to run until July 27.
Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over its north in 2012, prompting French forces to intervene to push them back the following year. Those groups have since regained a foothold in the north and centre.