Cissé, 71, who was held hostage for six months earlier this year by an armed group, has been seen as one of the main candidates in the 2022 presidential elections.
Soumaila Cissé, the main Malian opposition leader, held hostage for six months earlier this year by an armed group and considered one of the main candidates in the 2022 presidential election, has died in Paris. He was 71 years old.
Ciss died after contracting COVID-19, his eldest son Bocar told the Associated Press news agency on Friday. “The doctors did everything to keep him alive, but it is the way of God’s will,” he said.
Death throws Malian politics into new uncertainty. A former leader of the opposition in parliament, Cisse was the runner-up in the last three presidential elections and many believed he had the best chance of finally winning in 2022.
He was taken hostage by an al-Qaeda-affiliated group in March while campaigning for parliamentary elections in his hometown of Niafunke in northern Mali.
Under public pressure, the Malian government secured his release in October, along with that of French and Italian hostages, in exchange for the release of around 200 combatants from Malian prisons.
It was not known whether a ransom had been paid, although extremist groups have long funded their operations with such payments from European governments.
In an interview after being released from captivity, Cissé told TV5 Monde that his captors had moved the hostages by motorbike, boat and even on the back of camels. He said he was detained in more than 20 different locations.
Although he said he had not been physically or verbally abused, he described the extremely harsh conditions in the desert and said he did not have the medication he needed.
Cisse said he was able to listen to the radio and was angered by the news of the August military coup that toppled the democratically elected president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Mali’s interim leader Sem Ba N’Daw on Friday expressed condolences to Cissé’s family and supporters, saying millions of Malians “are in shock” at the news.
Describing a meeting with Cissé after his release, he said that “Cissé’s optimism remained intact”, and said that “the country still needed his experience and wisdom to face today’s challenges. hui ”.
Acting Prime Minister Moctar Ouane also expressed his condolences, tweeting that “all of Mali as well as the African continent mourns one of its brave sons”.
In his last Facebook post, on Christmas Eve, Cissé wished “an excellent holiday of joy and health” to Christians in his country and around the world, at a time when Mali is facing multiple crises – including coronavirus pandemic.
Engineer and computer scientist by training, Cissé studied in Senegal and France, where he worked for large companies including IBM before returning to Mali.
No immediate funeral plan has been announced.