Mali strongman Goita pledges to name new prime minister

On Monday, soldiers detained the leaders of a caretaker government tasked with steering Mali's return to civilian rule following a coup last August.

Mali interim Vice President Assimi Goita. Picture: AFP

BAMAKO - Mali's Colonel Assimi Goita said Friday that a new prime minister will be appointed within days, according to an AFP journalist, in the strongman's first remarks since seizing power this week.

On Monday, soldiers detained the leaders of a caretaker government tasked with steering Mali's return to civilian rule following a coup last August.

The caretaker president, Bah Ndaw, and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane stepped down before the military released them on Thursday.

But the twin arrests triggered a diplomatic uproar and marked the second apparent coup within a year in the unstable Sahel state.

The United States and Mali's former colonial power France have both threatened sanctions.

Colonel Goita led the coup on 18 August that deposed president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, after weeks of mass anti-government protests.

Under the threat of international sanctions, the military junta later handed power to a caretaker government which pledged to hold elections within 18 months.

Goita served as vice president in this government, however, and the army retained significant control.

Since the president and prime minister stepped down, Goita is leading Mali, his office has said.

On Friday, the military officer met politicians and civil-society figures in the capital Bamako, according to an AFP journalist present, and promised to name a new prime minister.

"In the coming days, the prime minister who will be appointed will carry out a broad consultation between the different factions," he said.

Goita added that he wanted a member of the opposition M5 movement - a once influential group that the military sidelined after the coup - for the role.

He also said the army had little choice but to intervene in the caretaker government this week.

"We had to choose between disorder and cohesion within the defence and security forces and we chose cohesion."

The detention of the president and prime minister came after a government reshuffle that would have replaced the defence and security ministers.

Both ministers were colonels who had taken part in the August putsch.

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