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Mali postpones elections after payment dispute with Idemia

Mali postpones elections after payment dispute with Idemia

Mali’s military junta announced on Monday it would postpone elections scheduled for February due to technical reasons, including a dispute with biometric technology maker Idemia.

The junta has accused the French company of holding the country’s civil identification database “hostage” since March due to unpaid bills. The issue has made it impossible to register new voters and update the voting registry, the military government says.

Idemia confirmed to Reuters that the service has been shut down because of outstanding invoices, adding that the company has no contact with the junta. The company was hired by the former Malian government to create the civil identification system known as RAVEC.

The interim authorities, which seized control of the country after a 2021 coup d’état, also claim that the dispute has slowed down the rollout of the country’s new biometric identity cards, Reuters reports.

This is not the first time the Mali junta has entered a dispute involving Idemia. In May 2022, as relationships between the West African country and France soured, a Mali court summoned French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, accusing his government of persuading the former Malian president to give the contract for the country’s biometric passports to Idemia in 2015.

Mali’s general elections, which are set to return democratic rule to the nation, have been behind schedule for two years. The country said that the delay would be short and that a new timeline would be announced soon. The junta has promised to migrate its civil identification data to a new system under Malian control.

In March this year, the junta also postponed the country’s long-awaited constitutional referendum citing delays in issuing of national ID cards. The referendum was finally held in June.

The military government has committed to handing over its rule in March 2024.

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