Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is the winner of the Malian presidential election. Now he faces the diffiuclt challenge of leading the West African country out of crisis, one and half years after a military coup.
The 68-year-old never left anybody in any doubt that he wanted to get to the very top. Just a few days before the run-off Ibrahim Boubacar Keita told his supporters. " I ask you to give me a clear majority, a majority that is beyond discussion or dispute." His wish was fulfilled.
Keita's rival for the presidency, former Malian finance minister Soumaila Cisse, has already conceded defeat. "I have been to see him, to congratulate him and to wish him and Mali good luck," said 63-year-old Cisse, even before the official result was released.
IBK, as Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is also known, is especially popular in the south of Mali and in Bamako. In the opening round of voting, he finished first with an absolute majority in all districts of the capital .
Keita is particularly popular with young people, who say he is honest and fair and gets things done for his country. "Yes, correct, I voted for IBK," said taxi driver Isaa Konate, proudly pointing to a poster of his favorite candidate glued to the rear window of his taxi. "IBK is someone who has a lot of experience. I trust that he really will work hard for Mali."
IBK plays the "dedication to his home country" card well. He was Mali's prime minister from 1994 to 2000, and the country's parliamentary speaker from 2002 to 2007. But he doesn't talk much about his accomplishments.
"He is a man who exudes tranquility. He signals this with his entire body - which is very important to us," said journalist Hamidou Konate, head of a local radio station in Bamako. According to him, exactly this will help create trust in times of crisis - which Mali hopes to overcome with the election.
IBK is not an advocate of unbridled political upheaval. He has been involved in politics for almost two decades, including two failed bids at the presidency. Because he is already 68, his participation in Sunday's run-off election was his last shot at the presidency. It succeeded.
Keita is also internationally well-connected. "He's well known within the donor community and has always maintained contact with us, even when he wasn't serving in government," said Richard Zink, head of the European Union delegation in Bamako.
These good contacts might be more important than ever, because since the overthrow of the government in March 2012, the economy has stagnated and investments are on hold. At a major aid conference in Brussels during May of this year, the EU agreed to give Mali 520 million euros ($694 million) for the years 2013 and 2014. This is money the country needs badly in order to get back on track.
Negotiations with northern separatists
Many people within the country are also hoping for more. They want a permanent peace treaty with the northern separatist group MNLA, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad. There haven't been any attacks in the northern city of Kidal for more than two weeks, but the eponymous region remains unstable.
At the top of the list of priorities is a stronger Malian army. The March coup was staged by a group of soldiers who claimed that their military efforts to defeat the separatists had received insufficient backing from the government they had just ousted. IBK is said to be on good terms with the army.
Journalist Konate smirks about this a little. "They all have good connections," he said. Nonetheless politicians have learnt that even a weak army can spring surprises. IBK followed a two-fold strategy regarding the coup, according to Konate: "He condemned the putsch, but went to visit the ring leaders."
In making this visit, Keita distanced himself from former President Amadou Toumani Toure, the target of the military coup. For many Malians, ATT - Toure's nickname - in his final years represented stagnation, corruption and slow decay of the country. Setting himself apart from the old leadership in good time probably helped IBK to win the run-off.