Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita will be publicly inaugurated on Thursday, in an elaborate ceremony with foreign dignitaries including French President Francois Hollande.

Mr. Keita, who was sworn in as President on September 4, will welcome Mr. Hollande, his guest of honour, at the airport in the capital Bamako at 1000 GMT.

The two statesmen will then drive to Bamako’s 26 Mars stadium where the inauguration ceremony will begin an hour later.

Mr. Hollande is held in high regard by Mali after France sent 4,100 troops in January to help its povert-stricken former colony fight an Islamist insurgency.

Twenty-six African heads of state are expected to attend the ceremony that will be symbolic of Mali’s return to democracy after 18 months of political crisis.

Mr. Keita will address the nation, followed by speeches by Mr. Hollande, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara and Chadian President Idriss Deby Itno.

Mr. Keita’s landslide election victory in August was seen as pivotal to helping the West African nation regain stability as it attempts to recover from a military coup last year, followed by 18 months of political crisis.

Mr. Keita has pledged to create “a strong and impartial state that will bring together all Malians.” The 68-year-old, popularly known as IBK, has appointed 34 Ministers and created a National Reconciliation Ministry, which will focus on the development of Mali’s northern regions and dealing with separatist Tuareg groups.

After the speeches, soldiers of the Malian, French and Chadian armies as well as the European Union training mission and United Nations peacekeepers will parade in the 50,000-seat stadium.

The political delegations will then drive to the Koulouba Presidential palace for a celebratory lunch and to hold bilateral meetings.

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