Ibrahim Boubacar Keita takes the helm in a beleaguered country under attack from Islamic extremists.1:32 PM, Aug 14, 2013 • By ROGER KAPLAN
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, a central figure in Mali’s political life for over 20 years, was the winner in Sunday’s runoff vote in the landlocked West African nation’s presidential election, as his rival, Soumaila Cisse, conceded and congratulated his compatriots on a civic duty well done.
The election, which gained plaudits from African, U.S., and European observers, represents a major step toward the restoration of constitutional stability in a country that has been under attack from al Qaeda-linked North African militants, as well as separatists demanding a Tuareg state in the vast savannah and desert regions north of the Niger river. It also frees up some $4 billion in pledged international aid, suspended in the aftermath of the coup that interrupted the electoral process originally scheduled for May 2012. President Francois Hollande of France is expected to attend Keita’s inauguration next month in Mali’s capital of Bamako.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, widely known as IBK in Mali, is 67, served as prime minister, opposed Cisse and deposed president Amadou Toumani Toure in the elections of the 2002 and 2007 (both of which Toure won), and is currently the president of the National Assembly, which was not dissolved after the coup and the instauration of a transitional president. Soumaila Cisse is a former finance minister and executive director of the West African economic union, ECOWA (CEDEAO). Notwithstanding the bitterness of the campaign, in which some 28 candidates were on the first-round ballot three weeks ago and in the course of which Cisse accused the IBK camp of irregularities, the two sides appear to be in agreement that order and stability in Mali are the immediate priorities. It is not inconceivable that IBK will offer Cisse, known as “Soumi,” a cabinet position.
In terms of reconciling Malian society, the logic would be that the two men come from opposite ends of the country, Keita from the big cotton hub of Koutiala in the far south and Cisse from Timbuctu, which suffered nearly a year of Islamist rule when Malian forces were driven out of the north in the first months of 2012. Nominally a socialist and a top member of the Socialist Internationale, IBK has sought support from conservative Muslim authorities and an electorate which is overwhelmingly Muslim. Cisse represents a current that could be described as liberal in the European sense of the word. Both men are French educated, the president-elect in history and political science, the runner-up in engineering; they are in agreement that policies must be aimed at encouraging the south’s rich cotton and textile industries. The country’s 14 million population is overwhelmingly very young.
As the Weekly Standard noted as the first round got under way, the improved security situation in the far north of Mali, and particularly the control by USAF-assisted French forces of the key air field at Tessalit (near the Algerian border in the southwestern Sahara), represents a strategic advantage for the government. It insures a continuing Western concern to protect Mali from becoming a breach in the line across the Sahel that the jihadist hordes have been seeking to breach in order to invade black Africa.
Ibrahim Boubacar Keita adamantly refused any concessions to the separatists or the Islamist radicals during the 2012 war, and supported the rescue of Mali by a four-thousand strong French expeditionary force when the Islamist forces, who had supplanted the separatists as the main force in the north, crossed the Niger in January of this year and threatened the capital city, Bamako. He will be under some pressure, including discrete French lobbying, to accommodate at least some of the Tuareg demands for more regional self-government.
Until the Malian army is re-organized and re-equipped and re-trained, security depends on French forces, with U.S. air support, a multi-national African military mission, and even, reportedly, a battalion sized contingent of Chinese advisors. Let it never be said the Chinese do not recognize opportunity on the African continent.
"We take our bangs and we stand in front of important things the world needs to see."7:55 AM, Jul 2, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
In Tanzania, Michelle Obama joked about the "prison-like elements" of being first lady. "[B]ut it's a really nice prison," she said. "You can't complain."
7:49 AM, Jul 1, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Presidents Obama and Bush will meet Tuesday at a wreath laying ceremony in Tanzania. Via the pool report:
Air Force One arrived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania at 2:39 pm local time. POTUS and family are expected to be greeted at the bottom of the steps with an arrival ceremony. Your pooler will send details of the arrival ceremony in a separate email.
There was also a gaggle. See below.
7:05 AM, Jul 1, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
Vice President Joe Biden, along with his wife, Jill Biden, will spend this week Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.
The White House emailed Biden's schedule:
DAILY GUIDANCE FOR THE VICE PRESIDENT AND DR. JILL BIDEN
12:18 PM, Jun 30, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama is with Archbishop Desmond Tutu at the HIV Foundation Center in South Africa, where a 15-year-old "rapper" performed "Hell on Earth" for him this afternoon. Via the pool report:
Potus entered a classroom type building with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who was wearing a pink cassock and a large silver cross. About six young boys sat in front of screens.
The program offers after school support, which includes English conversation, and computer learning.
'Frankly, We Don't Need Energy from Africa.'8:38 AM, Jun 29, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
At a press conference today in Pretoria, South Africa, President Obama lectured about job creation -- and how to look out for your own national interests:
3:25 PM, Jun 28, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
At the Radisson Blu in Dakar, Senegal, President Obama tried to get reporters to write about issues he believes are important. "[M]illet and maize and fertilizer doesn’t always make for sexy copy, but I very much hope that all the press who were in attendance today generate a story about this," Obama told the press.
The remarks came after a Food Security Expo in the African nation.
Hosted by Michael Graham.3:21 PM, Jun 28, 2013 • By TWS PODCAST
THE WEEKLY STANDARD podcast with executive editor Fred Barnes on the week that was in Washington.
9:32 AM, Jun 28, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama stopped by the press cabin on Air Force One, as the presidential plane made its way to South Africa. While there, the press had a chance to ask the president about major issues concerning Americans: the scandals, the controversial Supreme Court decisions, immigration, and many others.
Instead, the press asked about Obama's Africa legacy (or lack thereof), China's relationship with Africa, the commitment of U.S. companies to Africa, and whether he'll visit the ailing Nelson Mandela.
Here are the questions asked by the press to the commander in chief:
9:12 AM, Jun 28, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama went to the press cabin on Air Force One to say he doesn't need a "photo-op" with the ailing Nelson Mandela, who's currently in a Johannesburg hospital. President Obama himself will land in South Africa shortly and says he doesn't want to be "obtrusive" to the Mandela family.
Via the Twitter account of Hans Nichols, Bloomberg White House reporter:
5:44 PM, Jun 27, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
An unexpected thing happened at tonight's state dinner in Senegal: President Sall reunited President Obama with a character who appears in his book, Dreams from My Father. Via the pool report:
Mr. Sall opened the dinner with remarks. He welcomed POTUS and FLOTUS, saying that the American president had "honored" Senegal by choosing to open the visit here after his "brilliant" reelection last year.
"We are happy and honored to welcome you," he said in English.
12:44 PM, Jun 27, 2013 • By JERYL BIER
As President Obama and his family continue their tour of Africa, the White House put out a Fact Sheet entitled "U.S. Support for Strengthening Democratic Institutions, Rule of Law, and Human Rights in Sub-Saharan Africa." One of the first items highlighted by the White House is a $53 million program in Kenya that helps young people "obtain National identification cards, a prerequisite to voter registration."
"I'm Not Going to Be Scrambling Jets to Get a 29-Year-Old Hacker"8:17 AM, Jun 27, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama, speaking about Edward Snowden in Africa, said he hasn't called the Chinese and Russians about the man wanted by the U.S. government:
6:13 PM, Jun 21, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
In a Friday evening press release, the White House details what First Lady Michelle Obama will be doing when she, the president of the United States, and their daughters travel to Africa next week. A recent article in the Washington Post reported that the trip could cost up to $100 million.
2:12 PM, Jun 13, 2013 • By DANIEL HALPER
President Obama and his family will be going to Africa later this month. But the trip won't be cheap; it's expected to cost American taxpayers $60 to $100 million, according to the Washington Post.