Protest against sanctions Credit: GIN photo

Former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, removed from power by military officers, has died in his home in the capital, Bamako, at the age of 76.

His death was confirmed on Twitter by Abdoulaye Diop, a former minister of foreign affairs, and by the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali.

President Keïta suffered a minor stroke two years ago and frequently traveled to the United Arab Emirates for treatment.

Popularly known by the initials I.B.K., Keïta served from 2013 to 2020, one of the most turbulent periods in Mali’s recent history. He faced a secessionist movement led by anticolonial rebels of the northern Tuareg people and a rising jihadist movement which took many lives and fueled demonstrations against his administration. His administration also faced an economic crisis and disputed elections.

Insecurity has spiraled higher in Mali, a diverse, landlocked West African country known for its ancient manuscripts and evocative music.

Although he was once the image of an honest politician, Keïta’s reputation was irretrievably damaged by allegations of corruption and nepotism. The economy was crumbling, public services and schools were decrepit, and reforms were moving too slowly. His son, Karim Keïta, attracted the most resentment—living in a luxury home in Bamako. Crowds who broke into the home photographed themselves swimming in his pool.

Removed in a coup d’etat in August 2020, Keïta was replaced by a military junta which initially promised to hold elections in February but these have been postponed, angering the international community.

Mali’s junta now proposes to stay in power for up to five years before staging elections despite harsh sanctions imposed by Mali’s neighbors, supported by Western powers and the U.N. The Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS) said it will close borders with Mali and impose other restrictions.

This week, Malian citizens in the thousands wearing the national colors took to the streets to protest the sanctions and in some cases to show support for the junta. Coup plotter Col. Assimi Goita urged Malians to “defend our homeland.”

A large crowd also gathered in the northern city of Timbuktu, AFP correspondents reported. Social media also showed mass anti-sanctions demonstrations in the towns of Kadiolo and Bougouni in the south.

In addition to his son, Keïta is survived by three other children and his wife, Aminata Maïga Keïta. Complete information on survivors was not immediately available.

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