Mali’s president-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was sworn-in for a second five-year term on Tuesday, in a low-key ceremony that was not attended by several of his peers who are in China for the 2018 Forum for Africa – China Cooperation, FOCAC.
Keita was re-elected in an August 12 run-off election that pitted him against former finance minister Soumaila Cisse though the opposition refused to accept the outcome of the elections charging voter fraud.
In his inaugural address to the nation, Keita promised to address deteriorating security caused by an Islamist insurgency and inter-ethnic clashes.
I chose to place the re-establishment of peace and security at an absolute level of priority.
“This election is not the victory of one Malian against another, it is the victory of all of Mali,” Keita, 73, dressed in a flowing white boubou robe and matching cap, told the hundreds of supporters and local politicians who attended the ceremony.
Indeed, counter-terrorism will be high on the agenda of Keita’s government as he strives to conclusively restore peace in the Northern and central parts of the country.
Mali has been in turmoil since Tuareg rebels and loosely allied Islamists took over the desert north in 2012. French forces intervened the following year to beat back the militants, but they have since regrouped.
The regular attacks by militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State in Mali and neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso have alarmed Western powers like France and the United States who have poured troops and air power into the region.
“I chose to place the re-establishment of peace and security at an absolute level of priority,” said the president, universally referred to as IBK.
He promised to revive the stalled implementation of 2015 peace accord between the government, government-allied groups and former Tuareg rebels.
Violence between different ethnic groups in Mali’s previously peaceful centre has also escalated. Armed men dressed as Donzo hunters killed a dozen Fulani civilians in the Mopti region last week, local sources said.
Tuesday’s inauguration was boycotted by the opposition, whose leader Soumalia Cisse, accuses the president’s camp of widespread vote rigging.
Keita rejected those charges in his speech and called on the opposition to rally around him.
Keita won 67 percent of the vote against runner-up Soumailla Cisse, a former finance minister, who scored nearly 33 percent in a hard-fought runoff on August 12.
Dialogue between the two parties is expected to happen before the legislative elections in November.
Governance and the economy
The president also has to deal with several issues among a dissatisfied poulace that include youth unemployment, ailing health and education sectors, in addition to a disoriented civil service.
Almost half of the population lives below the poverty line although Mali has once again become Africa’s leading cotton producer and its economy has grown by more than 5% for several years.