Colonel Assimi Goïta, the leader of the military coup, which last month deposed President Keïta of Mali, has announced that Bah N’Daou, a retired colonel and the Defense Minister under Keïta, will lead the West African country as the interim president until elections are held in 2022. N’Daou had previously also been an aide to the former dictator Moussa Traoré. Traoré died last week just 10 days shy of his 84th birthday. 

Colonel Assimi Goïta will now serve as Mali’s vice president. The two were appointed by a group of 17 electors chosen by the coup leaders. They will be sworn in on Friday.

Mid-level Malian officers, frustrated by rampant corruption and a stagnated approach to the violent Islamic insurgency that rips the country, had forced the former president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, to resign in a coordinated coup. The coup had gained the support of the people who had been increasingly protesting against the president and government to resign. 

Mali has had a history of military coups: Traoré was just a lieutenant in the Army when he deposed the sitting president in 1968. He ran the country as a dictator until he too was overthrown in a coup in 1991. Under Traoré’s dictatorship, Mali was ruled with an iron fist: Political parties were banned, opposition leaders tortured, and the economy tanked.

President Keïta had been democratically elected in a landslide election back in 2013. He was re-elected to a five-year term in 2018. But since then, his once surging popularity had plummeted. The citizens of Mali, disheartened by the deterioration of conditions in the country, had taken to the streets calling for his resignation. There were also repeated accusations that the deposed president had altered the results of a legislative election back in April. 

The unrest was joined by opposition politicians, religious leaders, and civil society groups. The organized protests against the government became known as the June 5 Movement.

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Following the coup, the United States suspended military aid to Mali. France, which has more than 5,100 troops helping to fight the Islamic insurgency in Mali, also condemned the coup. Neither France nor the U.S. has yet commented on the appointment of the interim president.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had demanded that the coup leaders announce a new president by September 15 and hold elections immediately. It has not yet commented on the appointment of N’Daou.

There is a provision in the plan proposed by the coup leaders to the ECOWAS, whereby the leaders of the coup will be granted judicial immunity.

The coup leaders were touted as heroes on the day of Keïta’s removal. Malians were out in force in the streets in solidarity with coup leaders and the June 5 Movement held a rally a few days later in support of the coup. 

Colonel Goïta said that the coup leaders enlisted the members of the June 5 Movement input in choosing N’Daou to lead the transition government. But Choguel Maïga, one of the leaders of that movement denied this.

“We were not part of the body that determined the president and vice president. We learned about this decision through social media and the press,” Maïga said in a statement to local media outlets.

But will the military-led government be able to undo decades of corruption, stabilize the security situation, and improve the lives of the people through government involvement, especially in the less populated areas? It remains to be seen. The other regional governments will be watching closely since the destinies of the countries of West Africa are entwined.