Mali’s military commander Assimi Goita, who removed a transitional president and prime minister last month, has been sworn into office as the new interim president despite facing a diplomatic backlash over his second power grab in nine months.
“I swear before God and the Malian people to preserve the republican regime … to preserve democratic gains,” the 37-year-old military leader, who who was dressed in full military regalia, said on Monday after being inaugurated at a ceremony in the capital Bamako.
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Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque, reporting from the Malian capital Bamako, said there was tight security in the city as the swearing in ceremony was held.
“The ceremony happened under heavy security. The special forces were deployed in and around the venue,” Haque said.
“Absent in the ceremony was the usual heads of state. None of them made to the ceremony nor were the ambassadors. They were instead represented by junior diplomats. It is a form of sanction to say that they do not want to see a military at the head of this transition,” Haque added.
Later on Monday, Goita named opposition leader and former minister Choguel Maiga as prime minister of the transitional government, according to a decree read on state television.
Goita dismissed civilian interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane on May 24 after accusing them of failing to consult him about a cabinet reshuffle that would have replaced the defence and security ministers – both military officers.
Former colonial power France suspended its cooperation with the Malian military and the African Union announced Mali’s “immediate suspension” from the pan-African body in the wake of the coup.
Goita served as Mali’s vice president under the transitional government, formed in September last year, which pledged to reform the constitution by October and hold elections in February next year.
He has promised to conduct the elections as scheduled by the previous government who were themselves installed after a coup that toppled elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Keita was forced out in August by young army officers, led by Goita, following protests over perceived corruption and fighting with armed groups.
Al Jazeera’s Haque said Maiga, the leader of the M5 opposition movement that led demonstrations against Keita last year, is a controversial choice for interim prime minister because he says a peace accord signed between armed groups in 2015 is obsolete and that the government should engage with new armed groups such those affiliated to al-Qaeda and ISIL (ISIS).
“That is something that the French, who have more than 5,000 troops on the ground do not want to see.”
Mali is key to the stability of the Sahel region, and Western powers want to see a return to civilian rule as soon as possible.
France and Mali’s other partners want assurances that a civilian administration will be back in power come February 2022.
Maintaining its international partnerships, not least with France, is crucial for Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries and whose security forces are thinly resourced.
Violence remains all too prevalent in the country which on Thursday saw 11 Tuareg killed by as yet unidentified assailants near Menaka in the northeast – only the latest among thousands of victims in inter-communal and armed violence which has displaced approximately one million people.