The West African nation's new president must straddle appealing to both the Malian people and the volatile, separatist Islamist rebel group in the North.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita won Mali’s presidential election late Monday after his rival, ex-Finance Minister Soumalia Cisse, conceded defeat in the second round before official election results were even released.
Cisse tweeted about his family’s visit to Keita’s home to congratulate the “future president of Mali.”
Reports had shown Keita — also known as IBK — taking an overwhelming lead against his opponent, as he had in the first round when he polled 40 percent against Cisse’s 19 percent, BBC News reported.
Despite predictions of chaos when France pushed for early polls ahead of exiting its troops out of the West African nation, observers from the E.U. and the African Union commended the peaceful electoral process.
"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, head of the EU election observer mission, to Reuters.
With the elections finished, the attention has returned to the rebuilding process looming over Keita following a turbulent 18 months involving a military coup and the Islamist rebels’ stronghold in the North.
The Associated Press reports:
Based on Keita’s recent campaign visit to the rebels’ stronghold, though, it looks like the path to reconciliation won’t be an easy one.
Rebels from the National Movement for the Liberation of the Azawad — the name they give to their homeland — tried to block Keita’s plane from landing on the runway. When that failed, they hurled stones at his parked jet to show their disapproval.
Keita won’t have much time to prepare for negotiations either: Under an agreement signed in June, talks with the separatist Tuareg rebels are supposed to take place within 60 days of the new government’s formation.
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(Photo: AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell, File)