Retired Col. Bah N'Daw was sworn in Friday as Mali's interim president, tasked with presiding over an 18-month transition back to civilian rule following the Aug. 18 military coup.
A committee appointed by the military junta that seized power on Aug. 18, toppling President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, chose retired Col. N'Daw as interim president. Junta leader Col. Assimi Goita was sworn in as the vice president of the transition during a ceremony in Bamako.
Malian officials hope the inauguration of N'Daw, a 70-year-old former defense minister, will lead to the lifting of economic sanctions imposed by Mali's West African neighbors after Keita's overthrow.
The nomination of a figure with strong links to the army raises questions over the country's return to civilian rule. According to a junta-backed road map on restoring civilian rule, the transitional president is meant to rule for no more than 18 months before staging national elections. The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has insisted that both the president and vice president of the interim government must be civilians.
Amid waning hopes of restoring democracy after the coup, mediators from ECOWAS reached an agreement on certain points with the military junta, although some outstanding issues remaining. During the negotiation talks in late August, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) led by Col. Goita agreed that deposed President Keita should return to his home or go abroad for medical treatment in a country of his choice. The junta also proposed a three-year military-led transitional period before elections are held for civilian rule. Prime Minister Boubou Cisse, who was held with Keita at a military base outside the capital where the coup began, would be moved to a secure residence in the city during this time.