Mali Constitutional Court Declares Coup Leader Goita Transitional President

Coup leader and Vice President Assimi Goita, left, former President Bah N'Daw, centre, and former Prime Minister Moctar Ouane (file image).

The constitutional court in Mali has named Colonel Assimi Goita, leader of the post-coup junta, as the country's transitional president. The judgement stipulates that Goita should "lead the transition process to its conclusion," following his seizure of power earlier this week.

The constitutional court said it had made the decision due to the "vacancy in the presidency" following the resignation of caretaker president Bah Ndaw.

Soldiers detained Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane on Monday, before releasing them Thursday after they agreed to resign.

The twin arrests triggered a diplomatic uproar - and marked Mali's second military coup within a year.

Ndaw and Ouane had led a transitional government tasked with organising the return to civilian rule after a coup last August that toppled Mali's elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Mali's transitional president, prime minister released after military detention

Keita was forced out by army officers, led by Goita, following mass protests over corruption and the failure to quell a jihadist insurgency.

Goita had originally been named vice president with other key posts given to fellow army officers.

'The army had little choice'

On Friday, Goita explained that the army had had little choice but to intervene.

"We had to choose between disorder and cohesion within the defence and security forces and we chose cohesion," he said.

He added that a new prime minister will be appointed within days.

Goita made the announcement during a meeting with political and civil society figures in Bamako.

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

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

M5 move to take pressure off military

Goita's decision to name an M5 member as prime minister is seen by some commentators as an effort to relieve pressure on the military.

M5 spearheaded protests against Keita in 2020 but was excluded from key posts in the army-dominated post-coup administration.

A rapprochement with the group might serve to soften domestic and foreign criticism of the army.

The International Crisis Group has said that an M5 prime minister could allay international concerns.

M5 itself appears willing to work with the army.

The group's spokesman, Jeamille Bittar, told a news conference on Friday that M5 would put forward one of its senior members, Choguel Maiga, as prime minister.

"We must all come together around the new government," he said.

Worried Ecowas to meet in Ghana

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

Political turmoil in Mali has worried the country's neighbours, which have led efforts to defuse the crisis. The Economic Community of West African States is to discuss the situation at a meeting in Ghana's capital Accra on Sunday.

The 15-nation bloc has also warned of possible sanctions on the country; as has the United States and former colonial master France.

There are fears that sanctions will further destabilise the poverty-stricken nation of 19 million people, which has been battling a brutal jihadist insurgency since 2012.

Call for stronger ties with Russia

Several hundred Malians rallied in Bamako during the day to voice their support for the colonels, with many of them voicing hostility to France and calling for stronger ties with Russia.

Russia's foreign ministry on Friday hailed the release of Ndaw and Ouane but pressed Mali to eventually hold "democratic elections".

In Bamako, there has been almost no opposition to the military's latest power play. Most people appear to have wearily accepted the army's central role in politics.

Some have even welcomed the latest coup. Several hundred people rallied in support of the army in a central square of the city on Friday, for example, with many brandishing portraits of Goita.

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