Mali’s interim president Ba N’Daou on Sunday named former Malian foreign minister Moctar Ouane as prime minister, opening the way for the country’s neighbors to lift sanctions imposed after its August military coup.
A civilian premier was the precondition for ECOWAS to lift sanctions it imposed two days after the August 18 coup removing president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, which the junta claims inflicted no casualties.
N’Daou himself is a former colonel and defense minister, and was sworn in before Mali’s supreme court on Friday with military junta chief Assimi Goita as his deputy.
The junta has promised to return the country to civilian rule after a transition period lasting up to 18 months.
Members of Ouane’s government will be unveiled on Tuesday, an officer from the junta told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The new PM, aged 64, served as foreign minister between 2004 and 2011 during Amadou Toumani Toure’s presidency.
Since 2016 he has served as peace and security representative for the West African Monetary Union (WAMU).
Ouane is originally from Bidi in central Mali, the region most affected by extremist attacks and inter-ethnic violence that have racked the country for years.
Before the coup, former president Keita had faced months of protests over his failure to end the violence or to drag the country out of a grinding economic and institutional crisis.
ECOWAS had on Friday said that it would lift its sanctions against Mali only “when a civilian prime minister is appointed.”
Fearing a lasting power grab by the military, the bloc also demanded that the vice-president, whose remit includes defense and security issues, cannot under any circumstances replace the president.
It also insisted that the junta be dissolved, and has called for people arrested since the coup including former prime minister Boubou Cisse to be released.
Interim president N’Daou tried to reassure ECOWAS at his swearing-in ceremony on Friday, expressing “Malians’ determination to carry out a stable, peaceful and successful transition under the agreed conditions and timetable.”
“I will never be happier than when handing over to the future elected president, without question elected and elected cleanly,” he added, saying a transition plan hammered out in three days of talks this month would be his “prayerbook.”
So far the plan’s exact contents have not been made public.