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Profile: Soumaila Cisse

Soumaila Cisse is the main challenger to President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's bid for re-election in Sunday's vote.

Soumaila Cisse

Soumaila Cisse, 68, is a native of Timbuktu, Mali's northern region, which is famous for its historic sites but which has also been rocked by political violence.

A software engineer by training, Cisse was born in a small city near Timbuktu called Nianfuke. He was a top presidency official and served as a minister for much of the 1990s, including a stint in charge of the finance portfolio.

Cisse has earned respect as an economist although he has faced accusations of mismanagement and was accused of corruption by the military officials who seized power in the March 2012 coup.

His public pronouncements and his participation in a broad anti-coup coalition, the United Front for the Defence of the Republic and Democracy (FDR), led to him being attacked by soldiers loyal to Captain Amadou Sanogo, the leader of the March 2012 coup.

He was badly wounded as the men stormed his home in the capital Bamako on April 17, and fled to France, convalescing between Paris and Senegal for several months before returning to Mali.

A no-nonsense enforcer in the regime of ex-head-of-state Alpha Oumar Konare and a former president of the Commission of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (CWAEMU), Cisse has called for a "clearing of the junta" from the political scene.

He was beaten in the 2002 presidential election by Toure. In 2013, he was defeated by a large margin in the second round by President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

As he approaches Sunday's vote, he is trying again to garner votes to defeat President Keita with vague buzzwords like "change" and "new hope", but does not explain how he is planning to achieve those goals.

Earlier this week, Cisse's campaign team was attacked by gunmen in the northern city of Timbuktu. According to local reports, cars, phones and personal belongings of Cisse's team were damaged or stolen.

Cisse's origins

Cisse comes from the town of Niafunke in the Timbuktu region, part of the vast northern desert occupied for nearly 10 months by an al-Qaeda-linked group, but he has been married since 1978 to Astan Traore, who comes from a prominent family in the south.

He was a high-flying student, graduating with a science degree from the University of Dakar in 1972, before enrolling at the University of Montpellier in southern France, where he obtained a master's in computational methods applied to management.

After his studies, he worked in France for major corporations including IBM, aluminium conglomerate Pechiney and the domestic airline Air Inter, before returning to Mali in 1984 to join the Malian Company for Textile Development (CMDT).

When Alpha Oumar Konare was elected as president in 1994, he appointed Cisse as his secretary-general of the presidency and then, finance minister.

Cisse held this position until 2000, when he was made cabinet member for public works, the environment and town and country planning - a sweeping portfolio which earned him the nickname "super minister".


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