A former defence minister and retired colonel will be sworn in as president of mali as the west african country at the heart of the battle against extremism in the sahel begins a fraught transition back to civilian rule after a coup last month.
Bah ndaw will take his oath of office on friday, along with new vice-president colonel assimi goita, head of the military junta that deposed president ibrahim boubacar keita last month. the two will lead a transitional government that the junta has said will hand over power to a fully civilian government after fresh elections in 18 months.
The selection of the pair has raised concerns about just how strong a role the military plans to play in malis transition to democracy. the international community including west african regional bloc ecowas and former colonial power france, which is leading the fight against jihadism in the region along with opposition groups have called for a swift return to civilian power.
In his speech to the un general assembly this week, french president emmanuel macron said the junta must quickly set up elections and ensure a full return to civilian rule, or risk losing international support in the fight against jihadism. they must put mali on the irreversible path of returning to civilian power and organise rapid elections, mr macron said. france, like its african partners in particular, can only remain engaged on this condition.
In a televised address on monday, mr goita, who heads the national committee for the salvation of the people (cnsp), as the junta calls itself, hinted at the tension surrounding the countrys transition. some wanted a purely military transition, others wanted a civil transition, and others proposed a mixture, he said.
Ayisha osori, executive director of open society initiative west africa, said: i think that putting ndaw who is ex military and then putting a military person as his vice-president is being clever. the appointments were disappointing, she added.
Ornella moderan, the bamako-based head of the sahel programme at the institute for security studies, said it was unclear where the power will in fact rest between col goita and mr ndaw.
But the designation of this duo at least signals the cnsps intention to continue playing a leading role in this transition, and to ensure a strong military footprint on its leadership, she said.
Some members of the m5-rfp movement, which had held mass rallies calling for mr keitas resignation in the weeks before mid-level military officers orchestrated the coup, had pushed for a fully civilian-led transition. ecowas, which imposed crippling sanctions and shuttered malis borders following the coup, has echoed the request.
It is unclear whether mr ndaws appointment will satisfy ecowas demands for civilian rule. but former nigerian president goodluck jonathan, who is leading the ecowas mediation delegation, told reporters in bamako, malis capital, on wednesday that the sanctions were unfortunate and that a decision on whether to lift them should come on friday. ecowas doesnt want sanctions on any part of the community, he said.
Mr ndaw served as defence minister under mr keita in 2014 and spent a long career in the military, including as an aide to former dictator moussa traor. he is expected to try to better tackle insecurity in mali one of the key aims of the juntas transition plan while working with international actors including france and the un.
Mr goita, speaking at an event marking the 60th anniversary of malis independence, also expressed support for the presence of french and un troops in the country to assist in the fight against violent extremism that has killed thousands and displaced millions in the region.
France is a key player in what has become one of the most important fronts in the global war on terrorism. but insecurity has only increased since it intervened to crush a jihadist insurgency that captured northern mali in 2013, with violence spreading to central mali and into neighbouring niger and burkina faso despite 5,100 french troops in the region.