Oxford AASC: Keita, Ibrahim Boubacar

Keita, Ibrahim Boubacar

By: Jeremy Rich
 African American Studies Center What is This?

Keita, Ibrahim Boubacar

(1945– ),

politician, was born to a middle-class family in the town of Koutiala in the Sikasso region located in southern Mali on 29 January 1945. One of his great-grandfathers was killed fighting for France at Verdun during World War I. After attending primary school in Koutiala, Keita won the Concours Général prize for the colony of Mali in 1958. This educational competition gave the winner a scholarship to study in France. Keita thus commenced his secondary education at the Janson-de-Sailly school in Paris, and he finished his secondary education at the Lycée Askia Mohamed in the Malian capital of Bamako. Once he completed his secondary education, Keita enrolled at the University of Dakar in Senegal in the early 1960s. After receiving his undergraduate degree, Keita moved to Paris to enter a Masters program in history at the University of Paris I Sorbonne. Besides earning a graduate degree in history there, Keita also received two graduate certifications in political science and international relations. Keita also was the head of the Malian section of the Fédération des Etudiants Africains de France (FEANF), a student union for Africans in French colleges and universities.

During his university years in the mid-1960s Keita became a friend of Alpha Condé, the future president of Guinea. Keita strongly opposed Moussa Traoré's seizure of power from the government of Modibo Keïta in Mali in 1968, and became the secretary-general of a French-based Malian organization opposed to the coup. The new Malian government responded by suspending Keita's scholarship. To stay in France and to continue his education, Keita worked at a Citroën automobile factory in Paris.

Once he finished his studies Keita joined the French scientific research organization Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) in the 1970s and taught political science courses on developing nation, which were then called the “Third World,” at the University of Paris Tolbiac. Eventually Keita decided to return home after a long period in exile. The Fonds Européen de Développement (FED) agency hired Keita as chief technical adviser in 1986. Two years later Keita became the head of the non-governmental organization Terres des Hommes France (TDHF), where he developed and inspected public health, infrastructure, and women's education projects in Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali.

By the early 1990s Keita had joined the clandestine opposition party Alliance pour la Démocratie au Mali (ADEMA) headed by Alpha Oumar Konaré. After Moussa Traoré was forced out of power in a March 1991 military coup led by future president Amadou Toumani Traoré (no relation), Keita became Konaré's campaign staff leader in the April and May 1992 elections that followed. Konaré rewarded Keita with the position of presidential spokesman. In 1992 and 1993 he served as Mali's ambassador to Ivory Coast, Burkina Faso, and Niger. Konaré then appointed Keita minister of foreign affairs in 1993 and prime minister on 4 February 1994. Keita remained in this post for the next six years, during which he helped to negotiate an end to Turaeg revolts in northern Mali and promoted economic reforms as well as the decentralization of the political administration.

Keita resigned on 14 February 2000 to prepare his own candidacy to succeed Konaré as Mali's president in the elections of 2002. He formed his own party, Rassemblement pour le Mali (RPM) and finished third in the first round of the 2002 presidential elections with 21 percent of the vote. Keita then placed his support behind Amadou Toumari Touré, who won the second round and became president. Keita himself was elected to parliament as a representative from Bamako, and his fellow legislators named him president of the parliament. Though Keita was willing to criticize Touré at times, he also supported the government's efforts to improve Mali's dismal economic performance and to handle new rebellions in northern Mali led by the AZAWAD rebel group of Iyad ag Ghali.

On 24 July 2011 the RPM put forward Keita as their candidate for the scheduled presidential elections of 2012. However army captain Amadou Sanongo forced Touré out of power and formed his own interim government. Keita protested against the decision, but eventually agreed to support Sanogo's agreement to hold presidential elections in 2013. The Ansar al-Dine political Islamic revolt seizure of northern Mali in 2012, followed by its defeat at the hands of Malian and French forces delayed elections. This military victory allowed the presidential elections to take place in July 2013. He won the first round with nearly 40 percent of the vote but had to face a second round against his main rival, Soumaïla Cissé. Keita was rumored to receive aid from several foreign leaders, such as a plane from Gabonese president Ali Bongo Ondimba. Keita won the second round held on 12 August 2013. While popular with foreign governments (particularly his fellow socialist François Hollande of France), Keita's task to restore order and maintain democracy in Mali was a difficult challenge. Keita's victory signaled Mali's return to a fragile democracy after the conflicts of 2012, but it continued to suffer from poverty and violence, notably in the November 2015 terrorist attacks by a jihadist group that killed nineteen people as well the two gunmen. He also faced criticism in 2014 for his financial ties with Michel Toumi, a Corsican businessman with alleged criminal ties.

[See also Condé, Alpha; Ondimba, Ali Bongo; and Touré, Amadou Toumani.]


  • Bozonnet, Charlotte. “Mali: ‘IBK’, le nouveau home fort.” Le Monde, 13 Aug. 2013.
  • Soudan, François, and A. Kappès-Grangé. “Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta: ‘J’ai encore beaucoup à apporter au Mali.’” Jeune Afrique, 2 July 2013. http://www.jeuneafrique.com/Article/JA2737p030-033.xml0.
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