Top of the Morning: France to Start Mali Withdrawal; Kenya Vote Count System Malfunctioning

Top stories from DAWNS Digest–the global humanitarian news curation service.

France to Withdraw Troops from Mali Next Month

This seems somewhat premature. “French President François Hollande has said his country will begin withdrawing troops from Mali next month. He said the final phase of military intervention would continue throughout March and be scaled down in April. The campaign in the north had killed ‘terrorist leaders’, Mr Hollande said without giving any names…On Wednesday, Mr Hollande said that the ‘final phase’ of the French intervention ‘will last through March and from April there will be a decrease in the number of French soldiers in Mali as African forces will take over, supported by the Europeans.’” (BBC

UN Peacekeepers Captured by Syrian Rebels

The rebels say they will hold the peacekeepers until Assad withdraws his forces from a nearby town.“ Rebels holding 21 U.N. peacekeepers near the Golan Heights in southern Syria say they will not harm them but insist government forces must pull back from the region before they are freed, an activist said on Thursday. Rami Abdelrahman of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights quoted a spokesman for the “Martyrs of Yarmouk” rebel brigade as saying the convoy of Philippine peacekeepers were being held as “guests” in the village of Jamla, about one mile from a ceasefire line with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. “He said they will not be harmed. But the rebels want the Syrian army and tanks to pull back from the area,” Abdelrahman said after speaking to the rebel spokesman on Thursday morning. The capture of the U.N. peacekeepers close to Israeli-held territory was another sign that Syria’s conflict, nearing its second anniversary, could spill over to neighboring countries.” (NBC

Kenya Vote Count System Malfunctioning

This is looking to be a long and messy affair. “Counting of ballots from Kenya’s contentious presidential election was abandoned and restarted manually Wednesday after an expensive new electronic system failed.  More than half of the estimated 10 million votes had already been provisionally tallied since polls closed on Monday, giving Uhuru Kenyatta an 11 percent lead in the presidential race over his main rival, Raila Odinga.  The country, spellbound by the contest, was asked to dig deeper into its collective patience, however, when a server at the electoral commission crashed and its software could not be rebooted. The glitch postponed the results, which are now expected Friday.” (CSM