This has been a big week for news from Africa! Along with missed transition deadlines in Somalia and the announcement of the death of Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, this week saw the formation of a new “national unity government” in Mali. The unity government’s creation was a key demand of the regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has been attempting to stabilize Malian politics.
AFP details some of the changes:
The national unity government announced by presidential decree Monday has 31 ministers of almost all political shades including four women.
Tieman Coulibaly, a member of the anti-coup Front for Democracy and the Republic (FDR) party, becomes foreign minister…The new administration also includes a new ministry of religious affairs, headed by Yacouba Traore.
Among those reappointed are three military members seen as close to the former junta: Defence Minister Colonel Yamoussa Camara, Security Minister General Tiefing Konate and Minister for Territorial Administration Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly.
Justice Minister Malick Coulibaly and Health Minister Soumana Makadji were also reappointed.
The communication ministry will be taken over by Bruno Maiga, a junior minister in the previous administration formed on April 24.
Coulibaly replaces Sadio Lamine Sow, seen as close to Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore, the top West African mediator in Mali’s crisis.
The Malian government’s website is here (French).
Analysts are attempting to assess the relative strength of Dioncounda, Diarra, and Sanogo within the new government. RFI (French, via Peter Tinti) writes that Diarra was able to dominate the politics of selecting the cabinet: “In his new team he counts nearly fifteen of his close associates, many more than any other actor on the Malian political scene.” Do not, however, count Sanogo out as a political force.
The new government excludes the group Ansar al Din and other members of the Islamist coalition that controls much of northern Mali, where rebellion began in January. I would guess, though, that the Islamists would not have joined even had they been invited.
VOA on the government’s priorities:
Toure told VOA that the new government will move forward with plans to seek outside help to liberate the north, which has been controlled by Islamist militants for the past five months.
“We have two priorities: re-establish territorial integrity of Mali in the north, the second priority is organizing elections. The government will start working as soon as possible and try to get support from ECOWAS, from the African Union and from the United Nations.”
Whether they can achieve those priorities is another matter.
For more on the new government, see this alarmist but somewhat informative piece on the new religious affairs ministry, and also see US State Department Spokeswoman Victoria Nuland’s remarks from yesterday. And for an important look at how Mali got here, see this piece from Dr. Bruce Whitehouse.