Mali’s transitional “government of national unity” is taking shape. Yesterday, interim Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra, who was appointed April 17, formed a cabinet comprising 24 members. The new government serves under interim President Dioncounda Traore. Traore was formerly president of the National Assembly under ousted President Amadou Toumani Toure, who lost power in the March 21 coup.
News coverage of the new government’s formation is emphasizing two characteristics: the apolitical background of many ministers and the inclusion of military personnel perceived as being close to the coup leaders.
On the first point, the apolitical appointments continue a trend that began with the appointment of Diarra himself, who was an astrophysicist prior to his entry into politics. Yet if the intention of the interim government’s leaders is to project an image that their government is above politics, the appointments have not been received that way – the Malian press reports objections to the new government’s composition from both pro- and anti-coup political factions (French), and says that the process of forming the government has brought Diarra (French) face to face with “the reality of public life.” Assembling a government without including members of major political parties is a deeply political decision, one that could alienate people whose support the interim government might want.
Regarding the second point (the appointment of military personnel), AFP writes, “The three [appointees] — Colonel Yamoussa Camara, Colonel Moussa Sinko Coulibaly and General Tiefing Konate — will hold the defence, interior and civil protection portfolios in the west African country where the military seized power last month.” The BBC has more on the story. The prominence of (pro-junta?) soldiers in the new government will add to suspicions that the junta continues to play a large role in the interim government’s decisions. Their inclusion is, in other words, another form of politics.
The formation of the cabinet represents a step forward for the interim government in terms of personnel and perhaps policy, but it has not brought clarity, whether about who rules Mali, when elections will come (they are supposed to occur very soon), or what “national unity” will mean during this transition.