The people of Mali on Tuesday, September 4, 2013 scored another milestone in the country's democratic process, following the swearing in of President-elect, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, popularly referred to as IBK. A bigger ceremony will be organised on September 19, 2013 at which several Heads of State and foreign dignitaries are expected to fête Mali's return to constitutional rule.
Yesterday's event was sequel to the March 22, 2012 coup by then Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo that overthrew the civilian government of Amadou Toumani Toure. The coup was followed by a brief military reign and the transitional civilian regime of President Dioncounda Traore. A runoff presidential poll on August 11, 2013 saw IBK beating former Finance Minister, Soumaïla Cissé.
However, President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is inheriting numerous challenges, including a culture of impunity, graft by officials, indiscipline within the security forces, ethnic tensions, and crushing poverty, warns Human Rights Watch, HRW, in a recent report. Corinne Dufka, senior West Africa researcher with HRW, says Mali now stands at crossroads after a deeply troubling period. The new leader's actions or inaction could usher in greater respect for human rights or a return to the problems that caused Mali's near-collapse last year, she warns.
The organisation urges President Keita to adopt a zero-tolerance attitude toward abuses by security forces and graft by civil servants, tackle the culture of impunity by strengthening the judiciary and ensuring accountability for wartime abuses. Perhaps, the greatest challenge for the new administration is that of restoring peace and security all over the vast country. Islamist rebels who were chased earlier this year from their northern strongholds remain capable of launching hit and run attacks.
After the devastating coup and war, reconciliation with both 'vanquished' rebels and other political stakeholders is a must for the new authorities. This will allow for reconstruction efforts to begin. Other challenges include the return of Internally-displaced People and refugees, revamping the economy, reforming the military and consolidating constitutional rule for Mali to guarantee the stability of its democracy.