Mali’s military government chief has demanded an end to potentially crippling economic sanctions imposed after last month’s coup in the country.
On Monday, Mali’s former defence minister, Bah Ndaw, was named as president of the country’s new transition government.
Colonel Assimi Goita, leader of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) which overthrew Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was appointed vice president.
The 15-nation West Africa bloc ECOWAS shuttered Mali’s borders and imposed trade restrictions after Malian military officers deposed Keita on August 18.
Last week, the trade bloc also insisted that it would maintain the measures unless Mali’s ruling officers appoint civilian leaders swiftly.
Addressing reporters on Tuesday during a ceremony to mark 60 years of Malian independence, Goita said the recent nomination of a civilian as interim president meant that West African leaders must end their trade embargo.
“The international community is watching us … which is why we accepted the ECOWAS principles,” Goita said. “In the coming days, ECOWAS must remove these sanctions for the happiness of the Malian people.”
Ndaw, 70, will lead a transition government for a maximum of 18 months before staging national elections, according to a plan endorsed by the military government.
But it remains unclear how West African leaders will react to Ndaw’s nomination.
Hauled back from retirement, the former defence minister spent his career in Mali’s military, where he occupied a series of senior positions.
ECOWAS’s mediator in Mali’s crisis, former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, is expected in the capital Bamako on Wednesday.
Mali’s neighbours are anxious to avoid the fragile nation of some 19 million people slipping into chaos.
Swaths of the vast country already lie outside of government control due to a lethal armed rebellion that first emerged in 2012 and has also inflamed ethnic tensions.
Current ECOWAS restrictions ban commercial trade and financial flows, but not basic necessities, drugs, equipment to fight coronavirus, fuel or electricity.
Heavy sanctions could bite in the poor country already facing a severe economic downturn.
Goita urged citizens to form a “sacred union around Mali” and support the security forces.
“Today is an opportunity for me to congratulate and encourage them for all their efforts to bring security and peace to Mali,” he said of the troops.
The military government leader also called on Malians to support the “partner forces” of France and the United Nations in the country, which are often a target of popular anger.