Ba N’Daou, a former defence minister of Mali, has been sworn in as the country’s interim president at a ceremony in the capital, Bamako. He took the oath of office on Friday (25 September) in front of several hundred military officers, political leaders and diplomats.
N’Daou, a retired colonel, was named Mali’s interim president on Monday (21 September) in a national broadcast by the leader of last month’s coup d’état.
The announcement coincided with a visit by a high-level panel of West African negotiators, led by the former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan.
Ba N’Daou meets ECOWAS negotiators in Bamako, 21 September
Among the negotiating team’s leading members are Ghana’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey, and Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, president of the sub-regional commission.
The negotiators were in Bamako on Monday to finalise details of the latest phase of transitional arrangements.
At their meeting, Mali’s political actors informed the negotiators of their decision to appoint Colonel Assimi Goïta, the leader of the military Comité national pour le salut du peuple (CNSP, or “National Committee for the Salvation of the People”), as vice-president.
Assimi Goïta and fellow coup leaders meet ECOWAS negotiators in Bamako, 21 September
Since the 18 August coup d’état in Mali, in which the armed forces seized power from President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, the junta has come under pressure from the leaders of West Africa’s sub-regional bloc, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and the international community to return power to civilians.
The new government is expected to rule for 18 months at most and then organise civilian elections. At the ceremony yesterday Colonel Goïta was also sworn in as vice-president.
In his acceptance speech, President N’Daou said he would crack down on corruption, one of the main complaints against Keïta’s government, and stamp out abuses against civilians by Mali’s armed forces.
“Mali has been shaken, trampled on and humiliated by its own children, by us,” the new president said.
Resplendent in a white robe and wearing a blue surgical mask, N’Daou said he would strive for “a stable, calm and successful transition, in the agreed conditions and timeframe”. He also pledged to uphold Mali’s international commitments.
“The transition period which begins will not dispute any international undertaking by Mali, nor the agreements signed by the government,” he said.
Sanctions to stay in place
The appointment of a civilian president was one condition for ECOWAS to lift the sanctions it imposed after the coup.
Heads of ECOWAS nations had condemned the coup and the sub-regional bloc had imposed trade sanctions on Mali as a way of forcing the junta to give in to a list of demands, including the release of the then detained President Keïta.
La Francophonie, the international organisation of French-speaking countries, also suspended Mali’s membership after the military takeover.
The sub-regional leaders further demanded that the interim president be a civilian, but said they would accept a military representative as vice-president as long as he was unable to replace the president.
Stocks of goods are running low in the Malian capital, Bamako. But after N’Daou’s inauguration, ECOWAS officials said they would lift the embargo only once a civilian prime minister has also been appointed.
Neighbouring heads of state are afraid that the coup in Mali may lead to other uprisings in a region which faces three crunch elections in the next four months.
In the hope of reaching some form of agreement with the opposition, leaders of the military junta had opened transitional talks in Bamako with opposition groups. Similar consultations had been held in provincial capital cities across Mali.
The next 18 months will be crucial in determining how close Mali steers to democracy.
President Keïta was forced out of power after weeks of civil protest.
Nana Abena Boakye-Boateng / Asaase News correspondents