Obama lauds Mali election, U.S. reviewing aid

WASHINGTON Tue Aug 20, 2013 6:46pm EDT

Mali's presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita casts his vote during the second round of presidential elections in Bamako, August 11, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney

Mali's presidential candidate Ibrahim Boubacar Keita casts his vote during the second round of presidential elections in Bamako, August 11, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Joe Penney

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama on Tuesday congratulated Mali on holding a "peaceful, inclusive and credible" election this month, a step toward resuming U.S. aid to the West African nation.

The United States suspended aid to Mali in April last year, after a coup prompted by an uprising by Islamists and Tuareg separatists.

Mali's constitutional court confirmed Ibrahim Boubacar Keita had won Mali's presidential election runoff on August 11 with 78 percent of the vote and he is expected to be sworn in by Mali's supreme court on September 4.

Once the new government is formally in place, the United States can begin lifting restrictions on aid.

"This election has helped restore Mali's democratic tradition," Obama said in a statement. "We look forward to working closely with the new government to broaden and deepen the ties between our two nations."

A senior State Department official said the United States was already reviewing its assistance program to Mali.

Some U.S. funding can resume once Secretary of State John Kerry "determines and certifies to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations that a democratically elected government has taken office," the official said.

"We intend to continue close coordination with our partners in the international donor community and with the newly elected Malian government to ensure that any renewed assistance addresses Mali's most pressing needs in an efficient and effective manner."

Once portrayed as a model democracy, Mali imploded when a military junta, frustrated by a lack of progress in tackling a Tuareg rebellion in the north, toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure in March last year.

The Tuareg rebels and their Islamist allies seized upon the turmoil in the capital, Bamako, to launch a rapid advance, capturing two-thirds of the country.

The al Qaeda-linked fighters were finally defeated following the intervention of thousands of French soldiers in January.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton and Lesley Wroughton in Washington and Tiemoko Diallo in Bamako. Editing by Bill Trott and Christopher Wilson)

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