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Former Mali president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita

Mali held a state ceremony on Friday for former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who was ousted in a 2020 coup and died last week. Interim Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga attended the ceremony in a military camp in the Sahel state’s capital Bamako, where the ex-leader’s coffin was draped in the Malian flag.

Keita’s relatives attended too, as well as former Malian Prime Minister Moussa Mara, Guinea’s foreign minister, and foreign diplomats in Bamako.

He was a “man of culture, but also I would say a man of heart,” said Keita’s former health minister Michel Sidibe. “He always fought for this country.”

Thousands of people also gathered at the former president’s residence in Bamako to pay their respects. 

He is due to be buried at his Bamako residence later on Friday. 

Mali’s brutal jihadist conflict overshadowed Keita’s presidency, which along with a flagging economy and perceived government corruption, contributed to mass protests against him in 2020. Young army officers led by Colonel Assimi Goita forced him out of office on August 18, 2020, detaining Keita and other leaders.

Under pressure from the West African bloc ECOWAS, the junta that emerged from the rebellion released Keita on August 27 and returned him to his residence in Bamako, under surveillance. He suffered a mini-stroke the following month, and was sent to the United Arab Emirates for treatment.

The ruling junta went on to stage another coup in May 2021. 

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in December agreed to sanction Mali after the junta proposed staying in power for up to five years before staging elections, despite international demands to respect a promise to hold the vote in February. 

Goita, the head of the ruling junta, has declared a three-day national holiday in Keita’s honour, starting from Friday. 

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