July 4, 2018 / 1:32 PM / 3 months ago

Mali election officials end strike, easing fears for July 29 poll

BAMAKO (Reuters) - Election organisers in Mali have ended a two-week strike over working conditions, a union said on Wednesday, lifting a threat to a looming vote.

Malians are due to vote on July 29 in a presidential election that many hope will chart a way out of six years of political unrest and jihadist violence.

But attacks by militants had cast doubt on the government’s ability to hold the poll on time even before the strike, which disrupted the distribution of voting cards.

Last week, militants raided the headquarters of a regional military base in central Mali, leaving at least six people dead. Four civilians were also killed on Sunday by a car bomb that targeted French troops in the north.

Organisers agreed to end their strike on Tuesday and the distribution of voting cards had resumed on Wednesday, Ousmane Christian Diarra, secretary-general of the National Syndicate of Civil Administrators, told Reuters.

An agreement between two unions and the government, seen by Reuters, gave the workers a salary raise. But Diarra said officers would continue to press for more concessions.

“We have not accepted the government’s offer for bonuses and allowances, but we have agreed to suspend the strike while negotiations continue,” said Diarra.

“This is to avoid undermining the electoral process with the strike,” he added.

Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied jihadists seized its desert 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, using the sparsely-populated Sahel as a launchpad for attacks across the region.

Reporting by Tiemoko Diallo; Writing by Sofia Christensen; Editing by Tim Cocks and Andrew Heavens

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