Former Malian President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita dies at 76

Mali’s former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has died nearly 18 months after being ousted in a military coup

His death early on Sunday – announced in an alert by state broadcaster ORTM – comes as the sprawling African nation faces a deepening political crisis. The coup leader who ousted Keita has no immediate plans for a return to democracy as originally promised.

Keita won the historic 2013 presidential election staged to restore democracy after a 2012 coup. But only seven years later was himself ousted in another military takeover after months of protests public against his presidency. Keita was still three years into his final term when mutinous soldiers detained him at his residence in August 2020 after he fired shots outside the house. Hours later, he appeared on a midnight show on state television, telling Malians he would resign immediately.

“I don’t want blood to be shed to keep me in power,” Keita said at the time. “I have decided to leave my functions.”

West African regional leaders imposed tough economic sanctions earlier this month after Colonel Assimi Goita, who heads the transitional government, indicated that the next presidential election will not take place before 2026, after initially accepting a election by the end of next month.

A protest movement against Keita’s presidency saw tens of thousands take to the streets in the months leading up to his overthrow. As dissatisfaction with his leadership mounted, Keita had tried to make concessions to his critics, saying he was even open to retaking the vote. But those overtures were quickly dismissed by opposition leaders, who said they would not stop until Keita left.

Support for Keita has also plummeted amid criticism of his government’s handling of the Islamic insurgency, which has grown significantly in central Mali during his tenure. A particularly deadly wave of attacks in the north in 2019 prompted the government to close its most vulnerable outposts as part of a reorganization aimed at stemming casualties.

Keita has also been criticized for his handling of the political crisis in the north. He signed a peace accord with former rebels, but it was never fully implemented, prolonging the instability.

In 2013, Keita emerged from a field of more than two dozen candidates to win Mali’s first democratic election after a 2012 coup – a landslide victory with more than 77% of the vote. He also enjoyed broad support from the former French colonizer and other Western allies. In 2018, Keita was re-elected for a second term after winning 67% of the vote.

Born in 1945, Keita is from the city of Koutiala, in what is now southern Mali. He studied in Bamako, Dakar, Senegal and Paris, obtaining a master’s degree in history with postgraduate studies in politics and international relations before entering politics.

His first posts included ambassador to neighboring Côte d’Ivoire and diplomatic adviser to President Alpha Oumar Konaré, who took office in 1992. Keita was then Prime Minister from 1994 to 2000, then President of the National Assembly from 2002 to 2007 .

He is survived by his wife, Aminata Maiga Keita, and their four children.

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Associated Press writer Krista Larson contributed to this report from Dakar, Senegal.

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