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Mali’s new premier in talks to form government

AFP-JIJI

Mali’s new prime minister was in talks on Sunday to appoint a government to lead the West African nation’s postwar recovery after the surprise resignation of his predecessor and the entire Cabinet.

Former Planning Minister Moussa Mara, 39, was promoted to the premiership on Saturday after Mali’s first postwar prime minister, Oumar Tatam Ly, quit just six months into office, a statement from the presidency said.

He has not spoken in public since his appointment but wrote a brief message on Twitter thanking Malians for their support. “Now the hard part begins. I count on the support but also the constructive criticism of all. Have a good Sunday and viva Mali,” he said.

President Ibrahima Boubacar Keita’s office gave no reason for the resignation of Ly and his ministers, but it emerged on Sunday that the prime minister had become frustrated over being unable to enact reforms in the administration.

Ly, 50, said in his resignation letter that he had been unable to convince Keita to act on “the inefficiencies and inadequacies that I found in the running of government that greatly reduce its ability to meet challenges.”

“Accordingly, in consideration of these differing views which make the mission you have entrusted to me untenable, I am sorry to present my resignation as prime minister,” Ly wrote.

A source close to Ly said he had “insistently, since early March, brought to Keita’s attention the need not only to restructure the government team, but also to change old habits in the running of Mali.”

“When you are in charge of running a government, you need your hands free to work. If this is no longer the case, you have to draw your own conclusions and that is what that Mr. Ly has done,” another close aide said.

The press in Bamako suggested that tensions between the two men had been exacerbated by the fact that Ly felt undermined by the president’s son, Karim Keita, the deputy leader of the national assembly.

Keita appointed Ly, a leading economist but a surprise choice to many, after his inauguration in September last year, with Mali looking to set up a government that would turn the page on months of political chaos and war.

Strict discipline

Mara, active in Bamako and then national politics since his late 20s, was a losing candidate in the August election, garnering 1.5 percent of the vote as president of Yelema — “change” in Mali’s Bambara language — a party he founded in 2010.

Married with two children, Mara comes from a political family. His father, Joseph Mara, was a soldier and justice minister who spent time in jail in the late 1970s under the military dictatorship of Moussa Traore.

Mara, his brother and his sister were brought up by their mother and grandmother, who taught him the value of “a strict adherence to discipline,” according to his website.

An academic high achiever, he studied economics and remains one of the youngest members of Mali’s institute of chartered accountants.

One of Mara’s top priorities will be to make good on the president’s pledge when he was inaugurated last September to unite Mali, get the economy back on track and end endemic corruption.

Keita’s landslide victory in the first presidential vote since 2007 was seen as crucial for unlocking more than $4 billion in aid promised by international donors who halted contributions in the wake of Mali’s 2012 coup.

Army officers angry at the level of support they had received to combat a separatist Tuareg rebellion in Mali’s vast desert north overthrew the democratically elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, 2012.

In the chaos that followed, the Tuareg seized control of an area larger than France before being ousted by al-Qaida-linked groups who imposed a brutal interpretation of Islamic law on the local population, carrying out punitive amputations and executions.

Their actions drew worldwide condemnation and prompted France to launch a military offensive at Mali’s behest in January last year that ousted the Islamists.