Retired colonel Ndaw sworn in as Mali president

The new interim president of Mali, former colonel Ndaw, is pictured after a meeting with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) mediators, in Bamako, Mali

A retired colonel was sworn in as Mali’s interim president on Friday, tasked with presiding over an 18-month transition back to civilian rule following a military coup.

Bah Ndaw, 70, also served as defence minister in 2014 and previously headed the air force. He took the oath of office in front of several hundred military officers, political leaders and diplomats.

Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the Aug. 18 coup that overthrew Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as president, was sworn in as vice president during a ceremony in Bamako.

Malian officials hope the inauguration will lead to the lifting of economic sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that officials say have paralysed the economy.

Regional presidents, who are fearful that the coup could undermine a regional fight against Radical Islamic terrorists centred in Mali’s north and centre, hope the ceremony will be a first step towards civilian rule, although their initial demands for a purely civilian leadership have not been met.

Ndaw, described by former colleagues as “principled”, said in a speech he would crack down on corruption, one of the main complaints against Keita’s government, and stamp out abuses by Mali’s armed forces against civilians.

“Mali has been shaken, trampled on and humiliated by its own children, by us,” he said, wearing a long white robe and a blue surgical mask.

Among the audience members was the ECOWAS envoy, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who said on Wednesday he hoped sanctions would be lifted following Ndaw’s inauguration.

ECOWAS had demanded the appointment of a civilian president and prime minister, the dissolution of the ruling junta and guarantees that the vice president could not become president – conditions that have not yet all been satisfied.

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