Keita wins Mali election
13 August 2013, 16:12
Bamako - Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won
Mali's presidency after his opponent conceded defeat late on Monday in an election
aimed at restoring stability to a country wracked by a rebellion, a coup and an
Soumalia Cisse's concession averts a protracted election
fight, allowing Mali to move ahead with establishing a democratically elected
government, one of the international community's caveats for unlocking some
$4bn in promised aid.
Keita, who is known by his initials "IBK," had
been expected to win the runoff easily, having pulled nearly 40 percent of the
vote in the first round. Most of the other candidates from the first round had
given their endorsements to Keita, who has had a long career in Malian
Cisse paid a visit to Keita's home late on Monday along with
his wife and family to deliver his concession in person. In an exchange
broadcast on the private Malian television station Africable, Cisse told Keita
he had come "to congratulate you and wish you all the success you deserve;
a success for our country so that you can have the strength to take up the enormous
challenges that await you".
"That is a symbol of the new Mali," Keita later
told Africable, adding: "I am full of emotion."
Earlier in the day some of Cisse's supporters had raised
allegations of ballot stuffing against Keita's party, raising the specter of a
legal battle. Cisse's move drew praise from Keita's supporters late on Monday.
"It's a democratic act that shows that whatever the
circumstances, all Malians are from the same family," said Issouf Traore,
28, who voted for Keita. "This act will serve as a lesson to young Malian
politicians but this gesture shows above all else that Soumalia Cisse is going
to work together with IBK to restore the state, and bring peace and
Keita ran for the presidency in the two previous elections
of 2002 and 2007. He also served as foreign minister and National Assembly
speaker during his long tenure in Malian government.
During his campaign, he ran on a pledge of restoring honour
to the country ravaged by an Islamic insurgency that overtook the northern half
of the country until French forces arrived in January to oust them from power.
Many voters said they had chosen Cisse because they thought
he could best resolve the crisis in the north, where secular Tuareg separatist
rebels still pose a threat to regional stability.
Talks with the rebels
from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad are due to begin
within 60 days of the formation of Keita's government and many Malians remain
wary of negotiating with the group whose rebellion sparked more than a year of
chaos in what was once one of West Africa's most stable democracies.
Voter participation in the town of Kidal, the NMLA's
stronghold, was a mere 12% in the first round, and many there will not pledge
allegiance to Mali or its new president regardless of who won.
The first round of presidential voting had featured
technical glitches, leaving some voters unclear about where their polling
stations were located. However, European Union and African Union electoral
observers offered praise for the Malian runoff vote.
"Malians should be congratulated because it seems to me
they are regaining control of their democratic destiny, which is in fact
nevertheless a tradition that exists in Mali," said Louis Michel, the head
of the EU observer mission.
Ibrahima Sangho, president of the Malian electoral
monitoring group known as APEM, also said Sunday's second-round vote had gone
"We think the winner is the people of Mali who have
come out in large numbers to vote to show that the people have the will to pull
the country out of crisis," he said. "However, no politician can run
Mali as it has been run over the last 20 years. People are going to watch the
new president closely and follow him closely over his campaign promises."
The election was critical to unlocking $4bn in aid promised
by international donors to rebuild the country after political chaos sparked a
humanitarian crisis. A democratically elected government is one of the
conditions set by the international community, and a transitional government
has been in place since not long after the March 2012 coup.
In the aftermath of the government's overthrow, separatist
Tuareg rebels and later al-Qaeda-linked militants seized control of northern
Mali's towns. The radical jihadists imposed a harsh interpretation of Islamic
law, turning the once-moderate Muslim country into a place where women were
whipped for going out in public without veils.
France, Mali's former colonial ruler, launched a military
operation in the African country in January after the extremists begin surging
southward from their stronghold in the north. The Malian military has been able
to regain control over the northern towns of Gao and Timbuktu though its
presence remains highly controversial in Kidal.
Nearly 200 000 Malians remain in refugee camps in neighbouring
Niger, Mauritania and Burkina Faso, and an untold number of others are still
living in the southern capital of Bamako instead of returning home to the