Mali’s coup leaders have installed former defense minister Retired Colonel-Major Bah Ndaw as the country’s interim president after ECOWAS leaders gave the military junta a one-week ultimatum to return the country to civilian rule.
Ndaw’s appointment came two days before the end of the ultimatum issued by ECOWAS to the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) during a meeting held in Accra, Ghana, on September 15.
He was appointed by a 30-person panel set up by the CNSP, the junta that has ruled Mali since soldiers overthrew President Keita on August 18. Col. Assimi Goïta, the leader of the coup against former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was also appointed vice president of the new transitional government.
Ndaw is expected to be sworn-in on Friday, September 25 along with the head of the junta, Col. Goita. The transitional government is expected to be in place for 18 months, according to ECOWAS leaders.
Per the transition charter, a government will be formed with a maximum of 25 members under the leadership of a prime minister who will be appointed by the transitional president under the current Constitution. Also, during the transition phase, a National Council of 121 members composed of those from the political forces of Mali will be set up as the legislative body.
Who is Bah Ndaw?
Ndaw, 70, is believed to be a man of principle and a committed soldier with a very high sense of loyalty. Born on August 23, 1950, in San, in the Region of Ségou, the septuagenarian joined the Malian army on June 1, 1973.
He was sent for a pilot program in the Soviet Union following the establishment of the Air Force within the Malian military. He further trained at the War School (CID) in Paris, France in 1994. N’Daw spent his military career in the Air Force and rose through the ranks to become the Chief of Staff before his retirement.
Other positions he held in the army included Deputy Chief of Staff of the National Guard, Director of Military Engineering, Chief of Defense cabinet at the Prime Minister’s Office. He also once served as aide-de-camp to President Moussa Traoré.
Ndaw also served as Defense and Veteran Affairs Minister of ousted president Keita between May 2014 and January 2015. He has the national honour of Officer of the National Order. He also speaks several languages including Russian.
What is expected of him?
Quite a lot is expected of Ndaw as he assumes office on Friday. First, he has to defuse tension between the military and a section of the June 5 Movement that led the protests which resulted in the overthrow of President Keita. One of the movement’s leaders, Choguel Maïga, said the movement was not part of the decision that led to the appointment of Ndaw as interim president. “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 told reporters.
Also, the fight against jihadists in the West African country looks fragile so long as the crisis drags. Also, the Malian army is overstretched and poorly trained. The country’s army has suffered some heavy casualties in the battle against jihadists and Tuareg separatists. The country has struggled to maintain stability since 2012 following the emergence of Tuareg rebels and armed groups in the northern region. Also, the violence in the north and central Mali has been compounded by the seeming lack of presence of the state. Therefore, Ndaw is expected to come up with strategies to contain jihadist activities in Mali.
One of the issues that precipitated the protest in Mali leading to the overthrow of the government was the poor performance of the economy. Mali continues to rank as one of the worst economies in the world. This leads to economic disparities, weak trust in government and public discontent. The country’s economy largely depends on gold and cotton. Ndaw is expected to outline policies to stimulate economic growth and jobs for the teaming unemployed youth. Unemployed has reached 15% while the country’s poverty rate has increased from 45% in 2013 to 50% in 2020. Figures from the World Bank shows 40% of Mali’s 20 million population are extremely poor.
Another issue Ndaw is expected to tackle head-on is corruption. Corruption was among the grievances of the June 5 Movement. Corruption has also been used as a pretext to overthrow presidents in Africa. Government corruption is often blamed for the weak fight against rebels and jihadist groups in the north and central Mali. According to Global Integrity, Mali’s fight against corruption has been poor although there is a legal framework in place to combat the menace.