Malian Colonel Assimi Goita said on Friday that a new prime minister will be appointed in a few 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 mounts on the military administration in power in the country.
Soldiers arrested President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on Monday, before releasing them on Thursday after their resignation.
But the two arrests sparked a diplomatic outcry – and marked the second apparent coup in a year in the volatile country.
Ndaw and Ouane had led a transitional government tasked with leading the return to civilian rule after a coup in August that overthrew Mali’s president-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Keita was kicked out by young army officers, led by Goita, following mass protests against perceived corruption and his failure to quell a bloody jihadist insurgency.
“In the coming days, the prime minister who will be appointed will carry out a wide consultation between the different factions,” said Goita.
He called on meeting attendees to back his preference for a prime minister from the M5 opposition movement, a once powerful group that the military ousted after the August coup.
“Either we agree to join hands to save our country or we wage underground wars and we will all fail,” Goita said.
– Crisis summit –
The transitional government – installed under threat of regional sanctions – has a stated goal of restoring full civilian rule within 18 months.
But his appointments were heavily influenced by the military.
Goita, who led the post-coup junta, was appointed vice president and other key positions were given to army officers.
The colonel’s office said he was running the country again after the president and prime minister resigned.
On Friday, Goita explained that the military had no choice but to intervene.
“We had to choose between disorder and cohesion within the defense and security forces and we chose cohesion,” he said.
# photo1 The arrest of Ndaw and Ouane comes a few hours after a government reshuffle that would have replaced the defense and security ministers, both army officers who participated in the August coup.
The political unrest in Mali worries the country’s neighbors, who have led the 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-nation bloc also warned against reimposing sanctions against the country; just like the United States and the former colonial master of France.
However, there are fears that the sanctions will further destabilize this poverty-stricken nation of 19 million people, which has been battling a brutal jihadist insurgency since 2012.
The Russian Foreign Ministry, for its part, welcomed the release of Ndaw and Ouane on Friday, but urged Mali to finally hold “democratic elections”.
– ‘Come together’ –
Goita wants to appoint a member of the M5 as prime minister, which some say could ease the pressure on the military.
The M5 led protests against Keita in 2020 but were excluded from key positions in the military-dominated post-coup administration.
A rapprochement with the group could serve to soften domestic and foreign criticism of the army.
The International Crisis Group said an M5 prime minister could allay international concerns.
The M5 itself appears ready to work with the military.
# photo2 Group spokesman Jeamille Bittar told a press conference on Friday that M5 would introduce one of its executives, Choguel Maiga, as prime minister.
“We must all come together around the new government,” he said.
In Bamako, there was almost no opposition to the army’s latest power play. Most have wearily accepted his role in politics.
Some even welcomed him. Several hundred people, for example, gathered to support the army in a central square in the city on Friday, with many portraits of Goita.
© 2021 AFP