Malians prepare for Sunday election

July 24, 2013 at 12:37 PM

GENEVA, Switzerland, July 24 (UPI) -- Those displaced by conflict in Mali said they feel national elections will help ensure peace and stability in the country, a U.N. representative said.

Mali is scheduled for a first round of presidential elections Sunday. They'd be the first since a military coup in early 2012.

Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said the United Nations was coordinating with Mali's neighbors so displaced refugees can take part in the voting process. He said at least 173,000 Malians left the country when the political crisis erupted in January 2012.

He said displaced Malians, in general, viewed the election process favorably.

"They had a good awareness of the situation in Mali, and ... some believed the elections would help peace and stability -- a fundamental condition for many refugees in deciding whether to return to their country," he said in a statement Tuesday.

The Malian administration in January called for military assistance from former colonial power France to help take on rebel and al-Qaida fighters who captured territory after the coup.

The French government said it would send additional military equipment to Mali to support a peacekeeping mission there.

The U.N. Security Council last week said it was concerned some of the militant groups fighting in Mali are responsible for instability in much of North Africa.

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