Mali's interim legislature sits for first time

Young army officers in the conflict-ridden Sahel state toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18 after weeks of anti-government protests.

Mali interim Vice President Assimi Goita. Picture: AFP

BAMAKO - Mali's new legislature for the West African state's transition to civilian rule convened for the first time on Saturday, AFP journalists said, with the military retaining a strong role.

Young army officers in the conflict-ridden Sahel state toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on 18 August after weeks of anti-government protests.

Under the threat of international sanctions, the officers between September and October handed power to an interim government, which is meant to rule for 18 months before staging elections.

Figures with army links dominate this interim government, however, and anger over their prominent role is growing.

Coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita was elected interim vice president, for example, and retired army colonel Bah Ndaw was also elected interim president.

The 121-seat legislature, known as the National Transition Council, groups political parties, civil-society organisations, trade unions unions and soldiers in a single body.

Members of the defence and security forces are set to receive 22 seats, according to a government decree.

However, last month, Goita was given veto power over the appointments to the new legislature.

The move was seen by critics of the military-dominated interim regime as strengthening army control.

The new legislature also elects a president of the body on Saturday, who is tipped to be Colonel Malick Diaw, a member of the military junta which governed Mali after Keita's ouster.

Mali's military junta was never formally dissolved.

The opposition June 5 Movement, which led protests against Keita this year, said in a statement on Friday that it was boycotting the new legislature and that it would not serve as a "stooge for a disguised military regime".

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