Bamako: Leaders from across Africa and France watched the inauguration of Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in front of thousands of his supporters on Thursday as the nation entered a new era of democracy after months of political chaos.
Idriss Deby of Chad, the Ivory Coast`s Alassane Ouattara and Moroccan king Mohammed VI were prominent guests among numerous heads of state invited to welcome the new leader, elected by a landslide on August 11.
French President Francois Hollande took centre stage at the 55,000-seat March 26 Stadium in the capital Bamako, with the ceremony drawing a line under military action launched by Paris in January to oust armed Islamists from northern Mali.
"We are at the successful conclusion, because it is a victory, a big victory for Mali that we celebrate together today," Holland said to loud applause.
The ceremony began with Hollande and Keita standing before the Malian flag for the national anthem before Hollande addressed the crowd ahead of musical and cultural performances and military marches.
"We have won this war (but) France has paid a price for the liberation," said Holland, honouring seven French soldiers who died in Mali and paying tribute to troops who were wounded in combat.
He also honoured Mali`s soldiers and the "brave Chadian soldiers" who recorded at least 38 deaths during the campaign.
"Today, Mali has carved out its destiny, it has chosen its president," said Hollande, vowing that Paris would remain at its former colony`s side and help it on the road to reconciliation.
Keita was due to hold a news conference later with Hollande, Deby and Ouattara at the presidency after a lunch banquet for all the invited heads of state and their spouses.
Keita pledged to unite Mali and end endemic corruption as he was sworn in on September 4 to lead the deeply-divided west African nation`s emergence from months of political crisis sparked by a military coup in March last year.
"I will not forget for a moment that you put me where I am to take care of all aspects of the life of our nation. National reconciliation remains the most urgent priority," he said after taking the oath to preserve the constitution, democracy and the rule of law.