Retired colonel and former defence minister Bah Ndaw has been sworn in as Mali’s interim president, more than a month after a military coup overthrew embattled leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita was also sworn in as the vice president of the transition during a ceremony on Friday held in the capital, Bamako.
Ndaw’s appointment was announced earlier this week by Goita. The interim president will rule for a maximum of 18 months before staging nationwide elections.
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.
Described by former colleagues as “principled”, Ndaw 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.
Ndaw said he would strive for “a stable, calm and successful transition, in the agreed conditions and timeframe” and also promised to uphold Mali’s international commitments.
“The transition period which begins will not dispute any international undertaking by Mali, nor the agreements signed by the government,” Ndaw said.
Following the August 18 coup, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc suspended Mali from its decision-making institutions, shut borders and halted financial flows in an attempt to push for a swift return to civilian rule.
The bloc’s leader, Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, said on Friday that the sanctions “will be lifted when a civilian prime minister is named”.
Reporting from Dakar in neighbouring Senegal, Al Jazeera’s Nicolas Haque said Ndaw is supposed to represent the population, 60 percent of which are under the age of 25 and haven’t been in schools while hospitals are underfunded.
“That’s the concern for many Malians. To see this return of trust between the Malian people and the leadership, that is the challenge ahead.