New Malian president Keita takes office | Africa | DW | 04.09.2013
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New Malian president Keita takes office

Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has begun his five-year term as Mali's next president. The new leader faces the task of reaching a peaceful resolution with separatist groups and maintaining stability after over a year of unrest.

The presidential inauguration of Ibrahim Boubacar Keita - commonly known by his initials IBK - took place on Wednesday morning. A private ceremony marking the transition of power preceded the event.

"I swear before God and the people of Mali to faithfully preserve the republican regime, to respect and uphold the constitution and the law, to fulfil my duties in the best interests of the people, to preserve the democratic gains, to ensure national unity, independence of the country and the integrity of the national territory," Keita said.

Both the former interim president Dioncounda Traore, the challenger in the run-off, Soumaila Cisse, as well as other Malian officials were in attendance at the international conference center in the capital city Bamako. Foreign dignitaries plan to make an appearance at a public ceremony and festivities on September 19.

Malians gave IBK 77.6 percent of the vote in an August run-off election against challenger Soumaila Cisse, after failing to capture the majority in late-July.

The 68-year-old longtime politician ran on the campaign slogan of returning honor to Mali. His popularity stems from his reputation as a firm leader who has political experience as a prime minister, finance minister and speaker of the National Assembly.

Keita's administration marks the final transition of power from the country's interim government, which regained control with the help of a French-led military intervention earlier this year. The successful election of a new leader also met the condition set by international donors for unlocking 4 billion euros ($5.34 billion) in aid needed to restabilize the country.

Both Keita and Cisse ran against the last president, Amadou Toumani Toure, in 2002. Five years later, Keita attempted to oust the incumbent president again, but only gained 19 percent of the vote.

Mali hopes for lasting peace

IBK's first task involves reaching an agreement with allied northern separatist groups seeking autonomy from Bamako. Ahead of the run-off election, they had signed an agreement with Tuareg rebels and related umbrella groups to work together for more independence from the Malian government, indicating their determination to have their demands met by the new leadership.

Unrest began in early 2012 with a military coup which led to the ouster of then President Amadou Toumani Toure. The weakened state allowed the Tuareg separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) to gain control in the country's north. Al Qaeda-linked Islamist groups helping the ethnic separatist group gradually exercised their own influence over the region and imposed an extreme version of Islamic law.

In January, the government in Bamako asked France to lead a military intervention to halt a rebel-led march toward the capital city. Thousands more troops, mainly from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) joined the effort.

The UN deployed a 12,600 peacekeeping force to Mali at the beginning of July.

.kms/rg (AFP, dpa)