Mali Junta Moves Toward Selecting Interim President After Embargo Threat

Mali’s ruling junta said on Wednesday that it had started the process of naming an interim president, after West African presidents threatened a total embargo on the landlocked country.

Leaders of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met on Tuesday with the heads of the junta that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last month to try to speed up the transition back to civilian rule.

West African leaders, nervous the coup could set a dangerous precedent and undermine a fight against Islamist militants across the Sahel region, imposed economic sanctions after the coup, but they appear to have had a limited effect so far.

Speaking to reporters after returning to Mali, junta spokesman Colonel Ismael Wague said ECOWAS leaders had given one week for a civilian interim president and prime minister to be in place.

Wague said the junta told the heads of state it could not give an immediate response. A transitional charter approved at multi-party talks says the interim president can be a soldier or a civilian and will be chosen by electors selected by the junta.

In a communique after Tuesday’s meeting, ECOWAS said it would lift sanctions once civilian leaders were in place and appeared to accept the junta’s 18-month timetable for the transition after previously insisting on elections within a year.

Meanwhile, as Mali’s junta tried to hash out a political roadmap with West African leaders in Ghana on Tuesday, the 18-month transition plan agreed by the military just days ago is being contested in Bamako by the popular opposition protest group.
Mali’s popular opposition movement led the demonstrations against the ousted President Keita.

The military junta over the weekend adopted a “transition charter”.

It has yet to be published. But according to reports, it would provide an 18-month transition government, led by a President named by a committee set up by the military junta.

The opposition group said in a statement it condemned the “intimidation, anti-democratic and unfair practices worthy of another era” and “distances itself from the resulting document which does not reflect the views and decisions of the Malian people.”

But said it did not intend to start a conflict with the junta and would work together to modify the charter.

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