Mali moves on

Mali's dark night of the soul may be ending with the west African nation’s selection of a new president.


Mali's dark night of the soul may be ending with the west African nation’s selection of a new president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in what observers called free and fair elections.

Mali was considered a model of African democracy until March, 2012, when a U.S.-trained army officer led a coup that overthrew the democratically elected government. This led to the secession of the northern two-thirds of the country, organized by its Tuareg minority and overtaken by Islamist forces.

France, the former colonial power in Mali, sent in forces and conducted air strikes and drone surveillance supported by the United States. That re-established the authority of the central government in the north. In the meantime, the country was ruled by Mali’s military, with a puppet civilian government out front.

The international community, including the United States, wanted to see Mali, which is landlocked and mostly desert, back on track. It pledged $4 billion in aid, conditioned on Mali holding free elections and choosing civilian leaders.

In this month’s election, Mr. Keita, 68, a former prime minister, defeated former finance minister Soumaila Cisse. Voter turnout was a respectable 45 percent.

Mali should be able to proceed, although not without problems. France is drawing its troops down to a rapid intervention force that will remain there. The United Nations is providing a peacekeeping force that has already begun its work.

Mr. Keita inherits formidable problems. Apart from the economic development of a very poor country, there is still discontent among Tuaregs and Islamist northerners, and a military that enjoyed more than a year of rule and has shown an appetite for money and power.