- Oops!Something went wrong.Please try again later.
Mali announced a new government Friday in which army figures hold key roles, in the wake of an internationally condemned coup led by Colonel Assimi Goita last month.
The reshuffle takes place against a background of fears that stability in the war-torn Sahel state will deteriorate further, after French President Emmanuel Macron declared a troop drawdown in the semi-arid Sahel region this week.
Goita -- who already led a coup in August -- was sworn in as transitional president on Tuesday after deposing Mali's interim civilian leaders.
As well as appointing a civilian prime minister, the military strongman stood by a promise made by the leaders he ousted that elections would be staged next February.
But army figures will continue to dominate the post-coup administration.
The strategic interior, defence, security and national reconciliation ministries will remain in army hands, according to an announcement read out on Mali's national broadcaster.
Choguel Kokalla Maiga, a civilian who was appointed as Goita's prime minister this week, had promised to form an "inclusive" government in line with international demands.
Goita has come under intense international pressure since the latest putsch, which reached a new peak Thursday with Macron announcing a wind-down of France's 5,100-strong Barkhane force which has battled Sahel jihadists since 2013.
- 'Inclusive' government -
Last August, Goita led young army officers in ousting elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita after weeks of mass protests over corruption and the bloody insurgency.
After the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States imposed sanctions, the junta handed power to a civilian-led transitional government, which promised to restore democratic rule in February 2022.
But Goita deposed its leaders on May 24 after a government reshuffle that sidelined some junta figures, provoking diplomatic uproar.
The African Union and ECOWAS suspended Mali, a country dependent on international partnerships.
One of the world's poorest states, Mali's security forces suffer from poor equipment and training.
In an apparent reprieve, ECOWAS said Wednesday that it was "reassured" by Goita's promises to stage elections.
The West Africa bloc had also been pushing the colonel to appoint an inclusive government representing a cross-section of Malian society.
Mali's new transitional government is composed of 28 ministers, including five army officers.
Opposition members featurely prominently too, however.
Prime Minister Maiga is a member of the M5, Mali's biggest campaign movement.
A total of seven other M5 members were appointed to ministerial posts on Friday.
- French drawdown -
France, Mali's former colonial master, has taken a harder line against the country's second coup in a year.
Paris first intervened in Mali in 2013 at the request of the government, to help quell a jihadist rebellion that broke out the previous year.
French troops routed Islamist militants in northern Mali, but they regrouped to spill into the centre of the country, inflaming ethnic tensions, and then into neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.
France suspended military cooperation with Mali after the putsch in May, pending guarantees the army would quit politics.
On Thursday, Macron announced the end of Barkhane and explained that France "cannot be a substitute for political stability".
Details of the pullback have yet to be made public, but the French president said several hundred French troops will remain in the region as part of the so-called Takuba international task force.
Neither Goita nor Maiga had publicly commented on the decision by Friday.
However, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said Friday that France's military commitment to the region "will remain very significant".
She added that French forces had killed "four terrorists" in northern Mali on June 5, including Bayes Ag Bakabo, the prime suspect in the deaths of French reporters Ghislaine Dupont and Claude Verlon in 2013.
- 'Honourable way out' -
Mohamed Coulibaly, a Malian security consultant, said the latest coup simply provided a pretext for the French to disengage.
For years, Paris has pushed Western allies to contribute troops to the Sahel in a bid to lighten its burden in the seemingly intractable conflict.
"Faced with the fear of getting bogged down in the Sahel, (France) was looking for an honourable way out," Coulibaly said.
There are fears that the French move will further destabilise fragile Mali, however.
Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict to date, and hundreds of thousands more have fled their homes.
Alpha Sow, a retired Malian soldier, told AFP that a French pullback from outposts in the lawless north will "create a big void".