By Frank Kamuntu
Malians are voting in long-delayed parliamentary elections a day after the country’s first coronavirus death.
The poll has also been overshadowed by Wednesday’s kidnapping of opposition leader Soumaïla Cissé by suspected Islamist militants.
The elections were supposed to have taken place in 2018, but have been put off a number of times, mainly because of continued insecurity.
The Malian army has been battling militants in the north since 2012. There are now 18 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mali and there are concerns about its spread in a country with a poor healthcare infrastructure.
Earlier this week, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta declared a state of health emergency and imposed a curfew from 21:00 to 05:00 local time.
All land borders have also been closed. Soumaïla Cissé ran for president in 2018 Some opposition parties had called for the postponement of the poll because of the coronavirus outbreak.
But the government has said that there will be hand-washing facilities and masks available at polling stations.
Despite his kidnapping, Cissé’s Union for the Republic and Democracy, the main opposition party, called on its supporters to vote in large numbers.
“In these difficult times our country is going through, more than ever, the party’s activists are resolutely urged to redouble their efforts for massive participation,” a spokesman is quoted by a local media.