Mali junta leader sworn in as president after 2nd coup

BAMAKO, Mali — Mali’s coup leader Col. Assimi Goita was sworn in Monday as president of a transitional government, solidifying his grip on power in the West African nation after carrying out his second coup d’etat in nine months.

The inauguration ceremony in the capital, Bamako, came as Mali faces increasing isolation from the international community over the junta’s power grab. Already the African Union has suspended Mali’s membership and France has temporarily suspended its joint military operations with the Malian military in an effort to exert pressure on Goita to step aside.

Goita, who first grabbed power in August 2020 by overthrowing Mali’s democratically elected president, eventually agreed to a transitional government led by a civilian president and prime minister. But two weeks ago he ousted those civilian leaders after they announced a cabinet reshuffle that sidelined two junta supporters without consulting him. Mali’s constitutional court also approved him as interim president.

Goita faces international pressure to hold elections in February 2022, as required by the original transitional government agreement last year. He has said that elections will still go ahead as agreed, but given the latest developments it is unclear whether more shifts will occur and what role junta leaders may play.

Continued political instability in Mali, many fear, could further embolden Islamic extremists who have been carrying out attacks for nearly a decade in the country’s volatile north.

The West African regional bloc, known as the Economic Community of West African States, has been carrying out mediations. ECOWAS also called for a new civilian prime minister to be nominated immediately, and a new inclusive government to be formed.

The regional bloc, and the AU, have made clear that the head of the transition government, the vice president and the prime minister should not under any circumstances be candidates in the the next presidential election.

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan is returning to Mali this week to continue mediations on behalf of ECOWAS.