By Tiemoko Diallo
BAMAKO – Assimi Goita, the Malian colonel who has overthrown two presidents in the past nine months, said he would oversee a transition toward democratic elections as he was sworn in as interim president on Monday.
Goita, a 38-year-old special forces commander, had already been declared president by the constitutional court last month after ousting Bah Ndaw, but was formally sworn in on Monday during a ceremony in the capital Bamako.
Within hours, he appointed opposition leader and former minister Choguel Maiga as prime minister, according to a decree read on state television.
It was not immediately clear to what extent Maiga’s appointment would satisfy calls from Mali’s neighbours and military allies like France and the United States for a civilian-led government.
Those countries, fearful the political upheaval could undermine a fight against Islamist insurgents across the Sahel region, have also been pressing to ensure elections go ahead next February as scheduled. Goita’s advisers have suggested those might be delayed.
“The situation offers us the opportunity to put the process of transition back in the direction desired by the people,” Goita, who had traded his camouflage fatigues for a dark gray officer’s uniform and a yellow sash, said at his inauguration.
He said he was committed to implementing “the actions necessary for the success of the transition, notably the organisation of credible, fair and transparent elections that are held as scheduled.”
Goita was one of several colonels who overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last August.
A transitional government that would oversee an 18-month transition to democratic elections was then put in place with Ndaw as president and Goita as his vice.
Goita last month ordered the arrests of both Ndaw and the prime minister for not informing him about the details of a cabinet reshuffle, which he alleged violated the transitional charter. Both later resigned while in custody.
West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union last week suspended Mali from their organisations, although they declined to impose further sanctions. The World Bank said on Friday it had temporarily paused payments to the country.
Former colonial power France, which maintains more than 5,000 troops in Mali to combat Islamist militants, said it would temporarily suspend joint military operations with Malian troops but would continue to operate in the country separately.