The Situation Room during the election in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

The Situation Room during the election in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Image by mage by tlupic (flickr)

By Daniel Nelson

A ground-breaking initiative helped over 2,000 volunteers armed with mobile phones to keep an eye on the fairness of Sunday’s election in Mali – and raises the possibility of more effective monitoring of elections all over the world.

The “rapid-reaction platform” developed by OneWorld has been tested in previous polls in Sierra Leone and Senegal. The latter was described by the then US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, as "perhaps the most sophisticated monitoring program ever deployed in Africa or anywhere else".

Monitoring in Mali is particularly important because it follows on the heels of rebel seizures of swathes of the country’s northern region, a military coup and intervention by French troops.

The fighting displaced an estimated 450,000 people and Oxfam says ensuing and continuing food shortages have affected 1.2 million. Some critics have called for the polls to be postponed, not least because of inadequacies in the voters’ register. But Western donors warned that $3 billion in aid would be handed over only if elections were held.

How many of the potential seven million voters will turn out has not yet been confirmed, but the Citizens’ Election Observation Hub, as the monitoring project is called, aimed to help ensure that the exercise was conducted properly.

It was reinforced by OneWorld’s online platform, “Malivote” (  About 2,100 observers all over the country sent data by SMS on the opening of polling stations, voting procedures, turnout, poll station conduct and closing times, vote counting, violence, vote buying, suspension of voting, acts of intimidation, and observers’ opinions of the overall conduct of the electoral process.

These messages were de-coded, verified, mapped and charted in real time. The purpose was to enable civil society organisations to take immediate action in conjunction with national election officials to respond to any malfunctions and allegations of misconduct. The data was also published on the Malivote site.

“This helped increase the credibility and transparency of the electoral process,” says Habibatou Gologo, spokesperson for the monitoring project.

+ Ballot counting under way after Mali polls

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