, WASHINGTON, Aug 21 – US President Barack Obama on Tuesday congratulated Mali’s new leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on his election victory and vowed to work with him as the country emerges from months of conflict.
“We encourage the candidates and their supporters to accept the results, and to use this election as a foundation for further progress on democracy, national reconciliation, and addressing the security and humanitarian crises in the north,” Obama said in a statement.
“The United States stands with the people and government of Mali as they work to advance peace and stability in Mali and the region.”
Mali’s constitutional court had earlier confirmed Keita’s landslide victory in the August 11 presidential run-off.
His rival, former finance minister Soumaila Cisse, said during the election that polls had been marred by fraud but vowed to make no official complaint to the court after conceding defeat in the interests of helping to reunite the conflict-scarred country.
Keita, 68, a former prime minister and a veteran of the political scene in Bamako, takes office on September 4 and is charged with leading the west African nation out of a 17-month political crisis sparked by a military coup.
Army officers angry at the level of support they had received to combat a separatist Tuareg rebellion in the north overthrew the democratically-elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, 2012.
In the chaos that followed, the Tuareg seized control of an area larger than France before being ousted by Al-Qaeda-linked groups who imposed a brutal interpretation of Islamic law on the local population, carrying out amputations and executions.
The return to democracy has allowed France to begin withdrawing 4,500 troops it sent in January to oust the Islamists.
Secretary of State John Kerry commended the interim government for securing elections that were peaceful, inclusive and orderly.
“The transparent and credible manner in which the election was conducted honors Mali’s democratic tradition, and reflects the progress that Mali has made over the past 18 months,” he said in a statement.
But, he added, “to ensure the best possibility of consolidating this progress, Mali’s new government must address the country’s most pressing challenges, including national reconciliation and security sector reform, which is why we particularly emphasize the importance of Malian civilian control and oversight of the military.”
The election, the first since 2007, was seen as crucial for unlocking more than $4 billion in aid promised by international donors who halted contributions in the wake of last year’s coup.