Mali’s Keita to be cheered in a show of African unity

Leaders from Morocco to Gabon will cheer on the inauguration of Mali’s new president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on Thursday in a show of African unity as Mali enters a new era of democracy after months of political chaos.

But in many ways the ceremony at the 55 000-seat March 26 Stadium in the capital Bamako will hold most significance for France – drawing a line under what has been viewed as one of the more successful foreign interventions by a Western power in recent decades.

Idriss Deby of Chad, the Ivory Coast’s Alassane Ouattara and Moroccan king Mohammed VI are prominent guests among 26 heads of state invited to welcome Mali’s new leader, elected by a landslide on 11 August, and enjoy military parades and cultural displays.

But a place of honour will be reserved for French President Francois Hollande, who launched a military action in January, aided by African troops, which ousted Islamist groups linked to al-Qaeda who occupied northern Mali last year.

“For many Malians and indeed for the international community the conduct of a violence-free election was always a far more desirable outcome than ensuring electoral due process and fairness and in this respect, the peaceful conclusion of the election was sufficient to label the whole exercise a ‘success’,” said Manji Cheto, a London-based analyst with the Africa Practice think-tank in a recent blog post.

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