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Profiles: Mali's 2013 presidential candidates


Despite security concerns and warnings that the country is not ready for elections, Mali goes to the polls on July 28 in the first presidential vote since last year's coup. FRANCE 24 profiles some of the candidates in the 2013 race.


More than a year after a military coup led to the cancellation of presidential elections scheduled for April 2012, Mali goes to the polls on July 28 in the first vote since northern Mali was wrested from Islamist control by a French-led military intervention.

Despite widespread criticism that the July date is too rushed, Malian officials have come under considerable international pressure to stick to the election schedule. France and the US are eager to see this West African nation return to constitutional order, which would facilitate a security handover to a legitimately elected government.

The official 2013 presidential campaign kicked off shortly after the July 6 lifting of a state of emergency, which was imposed when the French offensive began in January. Mali’s constitutional court has approved 28 candidates, including four former prime ministers and a female candidate. But just weeks ahead of the poll, one of the leading candidates quit the race, citing concerns over the lack of preparation surrounding the election.

Here are some of the top contenders for Mali’s presidential race:


Ibrahim Boubacar Keita:

The 68-year-old veteran politician, known as “IBK”, was Mali’s prime minister from 1994 to 2000. Following his resignation from office, IBK launched the Rally for Mali (RPM) party in 2001. He has made two previous, unsuccessful bids for the presidency – in 2002 and 2007. IBK lost both elections to former Malian president Amadou Toumani Touré (aka “ATT”), who was ousted in the 2012 coup. Born in Koutiala in southern Mali, IBK was educated in Mali and France, and has held top positions at various international NGOs in addition to diplomatic postings and political posts. IBK was the frontrunner in the scrapped 2012 election and was supported by a number of smaller political parties.
Campaign Twitter account
Campaign Facebook page 

Soumaila Cissé:

Born in Timbuktu in northern Mali, Cissé, 63, was the runner-up in the 2002 presidential poll, losing the second round to ousted president Amadou Toumani Touré. A year after the 2002 poll, he founded the Union for the Republic and Democracy (URD) party. Educated in Mali and France, Cissé is a software engineer by training and has worked in several French companies. A former finance minister, Cissé fled his Bamako home following the March 2012 coup after he was attacked by Malian soldiers loyal to coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo. On the campaign trail, Cissé has called for the junta to stay away from political power.
Campaign Twitter account
Campaign Facebook page

Modibo Sidibé:

At 60, Sidibé has variously served as Mali’s prime minister, foreign minister and presidential chief of staff. Born in the capital of Bamako, Sidibé was a police chief before launching his political career. Considered an ATT (Amadou Toumani Touré) loyalist, Sidibé has been arrested several times since the March 2012 coup. In a recent interview with FRANCE 24, Sidibé insisted he did not have a complicated relationship with the Malian army or the Sanogo-led junta, which ousted ATT. "I do not confuse the junta and the Malian army," he maintained.
Campaign website
Campaign Twitter account
Campaign Facebook page

Soumana Sacko:

A former finance minister in the 1980s and prime minister under Amadou Toumani Touré’s 1991-1992 transitional presidency, Sacko launched a campaign bid for the 1997 presidential race before withdrawing his candidacy. He supported Touré in the 2002 and 2007 races and was a candidate in the 2012 election, which was scrapped due to the March 2012 coup. Sacko is 64 and has previously served as a senior official at UNDP (United Nations Development Programme).


Haïdara Aïchata Cissé:

Mali’s only female presidential candidate is a former trade unionist and businesswoman. The 54-year-old parliamentarian shot into the national spotlight during the 2007 general elections, when she was voted from the Gao constituency of northern Mali, a region that is "100% Muslim," as she told the French weekly, Jeune Afrique. A diminutive woman popularly known by her nickname, “Chato”, Cissé is running as an independent and her chances of winning the 2013 race without the machinery and backing of a political party are slim. But Cissé maintains that she has the support of women’s and youth groups as well as ordinary Malians who would like to see a fresh face in politics.

Niankoro Yeah Samaké:

Dubbed "Mali’s only Mormon presidential candidate,” Samaké is certainly not a frontrunner in the 2013 race, but he has nevertheless excited the US press. At 44, Samaké is the youngest presidential candidate. Born into a poor family in Ouéléssébougou in southwestern Mali, Samaké’s life took an unusual turn when he met a Mormon couple from Colorado while working for the NGO, Ouéléssébougou-Utah Alliance. The couple sponsored his trip to the US, where he earned a master’s degree at Brigham Young University and converted to Mormonism, married, and settled in Utah before returning to Mali, where he was voted Ouéléssébougou mayor in 2009. Samaké does not believe his Mormon faith hinders his political ambitions in a Muslim-dominated country. “I was elected mayor in Ouéléssébougou, a town where 90 percent of the population is Muslim,” he told the US daily, The Christian Science Monitor. “My faith is not a problem! In fact it will help me win the elections.”
Campaign Facebook Page:
Official Twitter Account
Official website 

Cheick Modibo Diarra:

This 61-year-old astrophysicist has had a successful career in the US - at NASA and Microsoft (he was appointed director of Microsoft Africa in 2006), before entering politics in his native Mali. On April 17, 2012, he was appointed interim prime minister shortly after the military junta led by Captain Amadou Sanogo officially handed control to a civilian transitional administration. But barely eight months later, he was placed under house arrest by soldiers loyal to Capt. Sanogo. Shortly after his arrest, Diarra appeared on state television and announced his resignation and that of his government. Diarra is the son-in-law of Moussa Traore, a former Malian coup leader and president, and also holds US citizenship.

Dramane Dembélé:

The 46-year-old engineer by training is the surprise candidate for Mali’s largest Adéma (Alliance for Democracy in Mali) party. Although Dembélé does not have extensive political experience, he is believed to have close links to Mali’s interim president Dioncounda Traoré.
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