Mali's Presidential election will be held on 28 July 2013, according to a draft law adopted by the cabinet as the nation struggles to move on from war and an 18-month political crisis. A cabinet communique marked the first official confirmation of the date of the poll, seen as essential to restoring democratic rule after a coup in 2012 paved the way for Islamist rebels to seize control of the north. Acting president Dioncounda Traore will not contest the polls.
The new elected government will have the responsibility to take Mali out of a crisis that has crippled the country since a Tuareg rebellion for independence of the north in January 2012. France, Mali's former colonial power, sent in troops in January 2013 to block an advance by the Al-Qaeda-linked rebels on the capital Bamako.
The French-led offensive has pushed the militants out of the main cities and into desert and mountain hideouts from where they are staging guerrilla attacks.
France meanwhile began withdrawing its 4500 troops deployed in Mali and handed over the reins to a 6300-strong force, the International Mission for Support to Mali (MISMA). France stated that about 1000 soldiers will remain in Mali beyond this year to back up a UN force of 12600 peacekeepers that is to replace MISMA gradually from July and will be responsible for stabilising the north.
Deeply divided and poverty-stricken Mali is badly in need of help to repair the damage caused by the war and to offer some hope of bringing together its disparate political groups.