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Mali’s Democratic Renewal

COLLECTIVE relief swept through the world when Mali’s post war elections passed off peacefully with Soulmania Cisse conceding victory to Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in the second round of ballot.

With tenuous security in the impoverished West African country, the election was a major step towards democratic renewal in Mali where Captain Amadou Sanogo seized power from former President Amadou Toumani Toure in March 2012. Toure had over thrown Gen. Moussa Traore. The military  sacked Traore’s government for failing to contain the advancement of the Al-Qaeda backed insurgents that were pushing to take over the country after they had established a stronghold in the Northern part where they created Republic of Azawad.

The election of Keita, 68, and former Prime Minister from 1994 to 2000, is obviously a welcome development. His party, Rally for Mali, overcame 22 of the 25 candidates that took part in the first round. Keita, whose campaign was “For Mali’s Honour”, needs to embark rebuilding his country.

He has to talk with the separatist Tuareg rebels, who signed a two month ceasefire agreement for the elections to hold. There are other trouble makers – Ansar Dine, Movement for Unity and Jihad for West Africa, Al-Qaeda in Islamic Maghreb and the Islamic Movement for Azawad – all affiliated to Al-Qaeda.

The ease with which instability in Mali affected West Africa and Europe with trans-border movement of criminal groups, drug traffickers and smugglers of small arms indicated the increasing linkages required to sustain global security.

Keita rightly sees “the need to revive dialogue between all sides and gathered Malians around the values that promoted dignity, integrity, courage and hard work.” Cisse displayed courage in accepting defeat even before the official result was announced. It is a mark of sportsmanship that he accepted defeat in the interest of the lasting peace in Mali.

Mali needs more than aid money to solve its socio-political and economic problems. It is land locked, devastated by climate change, and the war ruined its infrastructure. Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world.

The agitations of the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad are festering. The Islamist militants that occupied Gao, Kidal and Timbuktu to impose strict Islamic law remain active in northern Mali.

The withdrawal of over 4,000 French troops that forced the Islamists into disarray, and scaling down of troops from AFISMA, would encourage the Islamists to renew their struggle to establish an Afghan type leadership in Mali and in the Sahel. The world has to help Mali, its stability is key to security in the Sahel, North Africa and even Europe.

Mali may be back to democratic governance, but it remains fragile.



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