Mali mayor becomes first 2018 presidential candidate

Bamako - The mayor of Mali's second city, Sikasso, on Sunday became the first candidate to throw his hat into the ring for 2018 presidential elections in the troubled west African state.

Kalifa Sanogo, who made his name in textiles before entering politics, told AFP he would stand for the Alliance for Democracy in Mali (Adema), though he must win a primary before becoming the official candidate.

"At the request of thousands of my supporters gathered in Sikasso on Saturday, I have accepted to present myself as a candidate in the presidential election," he told AFP by phone.

The declaration may surprise supporters of incumbent President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Adema supports Keita's Rally For Mali (RPM) in parliament and was not expected to field a separate presidential candidate.

Keita has not yet declared his intention to seek a second term but is widely expected to do so after his first five-year mandate ends.

The Sikasso urban area is one of the most valuable in terms of votes in Mali, a sparsely populated, largely desert nation.

Keita has battled an ongoing jihadist insurgency, accusations of poor governance and deadly clashes between Mali's patchwork of different ethnic groups throughout his tenure.

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