Mali Swears In Interim President, Threatens ‘Total War’

Mali on Thursday swore in a new president. This is coming after rebels declared an independent state in the north following a military coup three weeks ago.

The interim president, Dioncounda Traore, who was sworn in by Supreme Court President, Nouhoum Tapily in the capital city of Bamako, has warned that his army will engage in a “total war” with Tuareg-led rebels in the north, media reports said.

Traore was Speaker of the National Assembly until the March 22 coup. He is to serve as Mali’s president for 40 days following an agreement between West African regional mediators and the leader of the junta that seized power last month.

Although he is constitutionally mandated to serve only 40 days in office, leaders of the regional mediating Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have tacitly acknowledged that he may be entitled to a lengthier stay in office, as he is confronted with the daunting task of organising new elections in a country whose northern half is already firmly in the grip of Tuareg-led rebels and Islamist cohorts.

The putschists had claimed to have seized power in protest of Toure’s mishandling of the rebellion in the North, but it was only after his ousting that the Tuareg rebels succeeded in taking the three largest cities in the region — Kidal, Gaol and Timbuktu — and declaring an independent state of Azawad.

The crowd cheered at Thursday’s inauguration after the military coup leader shook Traore’s hand. The new interim president said he would “never negotiate about the partition of Mali.”

“I am president of a country that loves peace,” Traore said when he was sworn into office, reported Al Jazeera. “I call on the rebels to halt all abuses.”

“We won’t hesitate to wage a total, relentless war to regain our territorial integrity and also to kick out of our country all these invaders who bring despair and misery,” Traore said.

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