Mali’s constitutional court appoints junta leader Goita as new interim president

Mali’s constitutional court on Friday appointed Colonel Assimi Goita, leader of the post-coup junta, as the country’s transitional president.

The verdict stated that Goita would “act as transitional chairman to lead the transition process to the end,” following his seizure of power this week.

The constitutional court said it had made the decision because of the “vacancy in the presidency” following the resignation of caretaker president Bah Ndaw.

Military personnel detained Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on Monday, before being released on Thursday after resigning.

But the double arrests sparked a diplomatic uproar – marking the second apparent coup in the unstable country within a year.

Ndaw and Ouane had led a transitional government tasked with directing the return to civilian rule after a coup d’état last August that overturned Mali’s elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Keita was forced to leave by young army officers, led by Goita, after massive protests over alleged corruption and his failure to quell a bloody jihadist uprising.

Goita was originally appointed vice president and other important posts were assigned to fellow army officers.

Earlier Friday, Goita explained that the military had little choice but to intervene.

“We had to choose between disorder and cohesion within the defense and security forces and we chose cohesion,” he said.

‘We chose cohesion’: Mali’s new transition president Goita

He added that a new prime minister will be appointed within days, in his first remarks since taking power this week.

The army officer made the announcement during a meeting with political and civil society figures in Bamako, according to an AFP journalist, as international pressure on the country’s ruling military administration is mounting.

“In the coming days, the Prime Minister who is appointed will be conducting a wide consultation between the different factions,” Goita said.

He asked those attending the meeting to support his preference for a prime minister of the M5 opposition movement, a once-powerful group that sidelined the military after the August coup.

“Either we accept joining hands to save our country, or we wage clandestine wars and we will all fail,” said Goita.

Crisis stop

The transitional government – installed under the threat of regional sanctions – had the stated goal of restoring full civilian government within 18 months.

The detention of Ndaw and Ouane came hours after a government reshuffle that would have replaced the defense and security ministers, both of whom were army officers who participated in the August putsch.

Political unrest in Mali has worried the country’s neighbors, who have led to efforts to defuse the crisis.

Diplomats told AFP on Friday that the Economic Community of West African States would discuss the situation in Ghana’s capital, Accra, on Sunday.

The 15-country bloc has also warned against resuming sanctions against the country; just like the United States and the former colonial master France.

Nonetheless, there are fears that sanctions will further destabilize the poverty-stricken nation of 19 million people who have been fighting a brutal jihadist insurgency since 2012.

Hundreds of Malians gathered in Bamako during the day to express their support for the colonels, many of them expressing hostility towards France and calling for stronger ties with Russia.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry hailed the release of Ndaw and Ouane on Friday, but urged Mali to eventually hold “democratic elections.”

‘Getting together’

Goita wants to appoint an M5 member as prime minister, in a move that some say could ease pressure on the military.

M5 led protests against Keita in 2020 but was banned from key posts in the military-dominated government after the coup.

A rapprochement with the group could serve to soften domestic and foreign criticism of the military.

The International Crisis Group has said a prime minister from M5 could address international concerns.

The M5 itself seems willing to work with the military.

The group’s spokesperson, Jeamille Bittar, told a press conference on Friday that M5 would nominate one of its cadres, Choguel Maiga, as prime minister.

“We should all come together around the new government,” he said.

In Bamako, there is almost no resistance to the last power game of the army. Most have wearily accepted his role in politics.

Some have even welcomed it. Several hundred people gathered in support of the army in a central square of the city on Friday, with many portraits of Goita.

(AFP)

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