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The Malian government has successfully overcome the “huge challenge” of steering the country through a complex 18-month political crisis, interim leader Dioncouda Traore, who leaves office this week, said on Monday.
Speaking at a final meeting with ministers before president-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is sworn in on Wednesday, Traore paid tribute to his government which he said had “accomplished an almost impossible task”.
Mali is slowly emerging from the crisis that saw it suffer the back-to-back blows of a Tuareg rebellion, a military coup and the seizure of half its territory by armed Islamist extremists linked to al-Qaeda.
During their nine-month occupation of Mali's north in 2012, the extremists terrorised locals with amputations and executions performed under their brutal interpretation of Islamic law.
Their actions drew worldwide condemnation and prompted France to launch a military offensive to oust the Islamists in January.
When he came to power in April last year, Traore and his government had the dual task of “restoring territorial integrity” and “organising transparent and credible elections”, he said.
“For many long months, this dual mission was a continual worry and accomplishing it was our reason for existing.”
“Some 48 hours from the end of our mission and without sounding self-satisfied, we can proudly say: Ladies and gentlemen, we succeeded!”
“Yes, we did it! We succeeded in overcoming this huge challenge. Yes, we accomplished an almost impossible task,” said Traore.
African-led support forces in Mali were replaced in July by a UN peacekeeping force that is expected to reach more than 12 000.
Keita's election on August 11 has allowed France to wind down its deployment from a peak of nearly 4 500, though it will keep up to 1 000 troops in its former colony.
Traore said he was grateful for the support of the international community which “was never lacking, even when Mali kept sending out signs that were contradictory, ambiguous and unintelligible”. - Sapa-AFP