Mali’s ex-defence minister Bah Ndaw named transition president, junta leader vice president

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Former Mali defence minister and retired colonel Bah Ndaw was named interim president on Monday while the leader of the junta that seized power last month, Colonel Assimi Goita, was appointed vice president, Goita said in a statement.

The interim president and his vice were selected by a 17-man group appointed by the junta to oversee an 18-month transition that will culminate in fresh elections. They will be sworn in on Friday, Goita said in brief remarks on state television.

ECOWAS called for a civilian-led transition government to be installed “in days” and said the bloc would lift its sanctions — which include closed borders and a ban on trade and financial flows — once the change has been made.

The AU’s 15-member security body late Thursday echoed the West African regional bloc ECOWAS, which imposed sanctions on landlocked Mali after the coup toppled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Smail Chergui, the AU’s peace and security commissioner, said on Twitter Thursday night that he was calling “for a return to constitutional order and early civilian-led transition in Mali”.

A separate Twitter post from the official AU Peace and Security Department account said it backed ECOWAS’ call for an 18-month civilian transition.

It was unclear whether the arrangement would satisfy ECOWAS, which last week threatened to step up economic sanctions and impose a total embargo on landlocked Mali if its conditions were not met. An ECOWAS spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

Regional leaders had demanded that the interim president be a civilian, while signalling they would accept a soldier as vice president so long as he is ineligible to replace the president.

Goita did not say whether the vice president would remain next-in-line to the presidency as stipulated in a transitional charter approved a multi-party talks earlier this month.

Ndaw served as defence minister under Keita and was an aide to Mali’s former military ruler Moussa Traore.

Kaou N’Djim, a spokesman for influential Muslim cleric Mahmoud Dicko, who led mass protests against Keita before the coup, praised Ndaw’s nomination.

“Ba is an upright official. He has never been implicated in matters of financial corruption,” N’Djim told Reuters.

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