Mali announces national unity government

Cabinet includes five appointees known to be close to army officer who led the March coup that sparked ongoing turmoil.

Mali''s interim President Traore returns to Bamako
Traore's decision is seen as an attempt to restore a semblance of stability after the chaos [Reuters]

Mali’s interim president, Dioncounda Traore, has announced a new cabinet in a bid to restore stability to the nation in the wake of the political chaos started by a coup.

The West African country has been in crisis since March when Amadou Toumani Toure, the democratically elected president, was overthrown by a military coup headed by Captain Amadou Sanogo.

The ensuing political turmoil allowed al-Qaeda-linked fighters to wrest control of the northern desert regions.

The new government, announced on Monday, consists of 31 ministers and includes five appointees understood to be closely aligned to Sanogo.

According to state television, none of the new cabinet members have associations with toppled president Toure.   

Nearly half a million people have been displaced in the north of the country after a takeover by al-Qaeda linked-Islamists.

Sanctions threat

The nation had been threatened with sanctions and removal from the regional bloc by West African regional leaders.

Mali’s failure to form a unity government by August 10 had raised concerns about the fate of the country’s political transition due to unrelenting rumours about the ties between Sanogu and Cheick Modibo Diarra, acting prime minister.

Hopes to expel the al-Qaeda-linked fighters have mainly rested on the formation of a new government.

The fighters, who exploited the power void in the capital city, Bamako, have begun implementing strict Islamic rule by ordering the stoning of an adulterous couple and chopping the hands of a suspected thief.

Aboubacrine Assadek Ag Hamatta, a Malian civil society leader, has urged the new government to “make the liberation of the north its No 1 priority”.

Brutal assault

Sanogo had signed an agreement pledging to return the country to civilian rule with Traore and Diarra being named as acting heads of state.

Troare was brutally assaulted in May this year by a Sanogo-backed mob, who injured him to the point of losing consciousness.

Traore sought medical treatment in France and returned to Mali in late July.

Diarra has become a divisive figure in recent weeks due to his alleged ties with Sanogo.

The reports raised suspicions that Sanogo and not the interim administration had been making key decisions about the country’s future.