MALI'S INTERIM PREISDENT FACES DAUNTING TASK TO UNIFY COUNTRY
Last Updated: 2012-07-30
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An NNN-Xinhuia News Analysis

BAMAKO, July 30 (NNN-XINHUA) -- Mali's interim President Dioncounda Traore is facing a daunting task to shape up his country just days after his return here as he needs to form a united government and push for a united country.

Traore arrived in Bamako on Friday amidst tight security, the first time since he left Mali on May 21 when he was beat up in his office by an angry mob led by ex-Junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo.

Traore said upon his return thta he was getting "better everyday" after his two-month-long treatment in Paris and that he forgave his attackers.

In contrast to his hopeful tone, the Mali Traore returned to was in worse shape than the one he left.

Once seen as a rare stable democracy in a tumultuous region, Mali now suffers from internal bickering among political parties and an effective split, with Islamist militants holding a chunk of the country that is larger than France.

Cheiko Modibo Diarra, the prime minister who was left in charge in Traore's absence, has been unable to bridge differences among political parties and sketch out plans to take back the militant-occupied territory.

"The Malian people are going through a very difficult period, starved for unity. I will apply myself to that," Traore said.

In addition to domestic urges, Traore is also facing international pressure.

Mali's neighbours in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) Iset the deadline for the creation of a new government for July 31, otherwise it would mean sanctions.

Against this backdrop, the interim president rushed to announce on Sunday the creation of a number of new top-level government posts.

He also said that he will head a High Council of State, which is in charge of talks for a unity government and negotiations with the militants controlling the country's north.

The High Council of State is designed to "complete the country's institutional architecture" and "adapt it to socio-political realities," he said.

The new body would include two vice-president positions, one to be held by the military, to take charge in defense and handling the militants, while the other will be held by "social actors" who will represent the various non-political forces in Mali, he added.

The move was seen to sideline Diarra, a former NASA astrophysicist and political novice who was criticized for under-performing in reining in disorder.

The international community is more wary of Traore's approach with the Islamist militants, as members of Ecowas fear that the instability could spread to nearby regions.

Ecowas and the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council have announced a possible military intervention in Mali, to help the government regain its territory.

In a statement released on July 18, Ecowas said that it was awaiting the green-light from the Malian authorities for the deployment of military forces in Mali.

"Ecowas is only awaiting authorization from the Malian government to deploy a standby force in this country," a statement from the technical evaluation mission of the United Nations, African Union and Ecowas said in Bamako, but so far no actual moves have been made.

President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d'Ivoire and the current president of Ecowas, pledged that boots could be on Mali grounds "in weeks not months" if the situation does not get better.

"A new request to the United Nations Security Council will be shortly submitted in the name of Ecowas," he told French weekly Journal du Dimanch which ran his interview on Sunday. -- NNN-XINHUA