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Presidential candidate concedes race in Mali

By Faith Karimi, CNN
August 13, 2013 -- Updated 0228 GMT (1028 HKT)
Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita gets a concession message from his opponent in the runoff election.
Former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita gets a concession message from his opponent in the runoff election.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Soumaila Cisse congratulates his opponent, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, on social media
  • The former government officials were the top two in a vote last month
  • A new president would allow France to withdraw some troops sent to fight Islamists

(CNN) -- A Malian presidential candidate conceded to his opponent Monday, a day after a runoff election in the nation rattled in the past year by a coup and insurgent Islamists.

Former Finance Minister Soumaila Cisse conceded to former Prime Minister Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on social media.

"My family & myself went to Mr. Keita, the future president of Mali, congratulate him on his victory. God bless you," he said on Twitter.

On his official Facebook page, Cisse issued a statement:

"Dear citizens, dear friends:

To those who have been following me and supporting me here on this page for so many months, I would like to tell you that my family and I went tonight at Mr. Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who will be our next President of the Republic to congratulate him on his victory in the presidential election."

In the first round of voting last month, Keita won nearly 40% of the vote, while Cisse garnered close to 20%.

Keita ran for office in 2002 and 2007. He lost both times, most recently to Amadou Toumani Toure.

Toure was ousted by a faction of the military in March of last year, plunging Mali, a landlocked country in West Africa, into chaos.

A group of outraged soldiers accused the government of not providing adequate equipment to battle ethnic Tuareg rebels roaming the vast desert land in the north. Disgruntled, the soldiers marched to the palace.

A few hours later, a soldier appeared on state television and said the military was in control of the nation. The coup leader later stepped down and transferred power to a civilian transitional government.

But uncertainty reigned.

Islamic extremists, some with ties to al Qaeda, capitalized on the coup. They toppled the Tuareg tribe roaming in the north and seized control of Timbuktu and other cities in the region. They carved out a large portion of the region and began instituting their own laws.

Saved from Islamists, Timbuktu's manuscripts face new threat

They banned music, smoking, drinking and watching sports on television, and destroyed historic tombs and shrines in the north. World leaders feared that the al Qaeda-linked militants would turn the area into a terrorist haven.

Their victories prompted a French-led military campaign in January to flush out the insurgents. France has a close tie to Mali after holding it as a colony from 1898 to 1960.

A successful election would allow France to withdraw some of the troops it put in place to halt Islamist militants from advancing toward the capital, Bamako. French troops and United Nations peacekeepers still patrol the streets of the fragile north.

CNN's Larry Register contributed to this report from Atlanta, and journalist Katarina Hoije contributed from Bamako.

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