The former defense minister appointed Mali interim president, junta leader named VP

Former Malidefence minister and retired Colonel Bah Ndaw was appointed interim president on Monday, while the leader of the junta who seized power last month was appointed vice president, state television announced.

Mali’s ruling junta has come under heavy pressure from leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to bring power back to civilians after the August 18 coup that toppled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

It was unclear whether the arrangement would satisfy ECOWAS, which last week threatened to intensify economic sanctions and impose a total embargo on landlocked Mali if its conditions were not met. An ECOWAS spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment.

The leaders and Mali’s partners such as France and the United States are nervous that the coup will set a dangerous precedent and undermine the fight against Islamist militants throughout the Sahel region.

Ndaw and Goita were appointed by a group of 17 voters elected by the junta to oversee an 18-month transition that will culminate in new elections. They will be sworn in on Friday, Goita said in brief remarks on state television.

Regional leaders had demanded that the interim president be civilian, while signaling that they would accept a soldier as vice president as long as he is not eligible to replace the president.

Goita did not say whether the vice president would remain the next line in the presidency, as determined in a transitional charter that approved a multi-party talks earlier this month.

Ndaw served as defense minister under Keita and was an aide to Mali’s former military ruler Moussa Traore.

Kaou N’Djim, a spokesman for the influential Muslim priest Mahmoud Dicko, who led mass protests against Keita before the coup, praised Ndaw’s nomination.

“Bah is an upright official. He has never been involved in issues of financial corruption,” N’Djim told Reuters.