Mali’s President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita named seven new ministers on Saturday, with cabinet members replaced in key defence and economy posts in the strife-torn west African nation. The government of new Prime Minister Modibo Keita was appointed by a presidential decree published overnight Saturday, after his predecessor as premier resigned under pressure on Thursday.

Tieman Hubert Coulibaly, a former foreign minister, takes over the defence and veterans portfolio in the new government, which has 29 members in addition to the premier, against 31 in the previous administration. Banker Mamadou Igor Diarra becomes minister of economy and finance, while the digital economy and communication portfolio went to Choguel Kokala Maiga.

The new government faces many challenges in the conflict-hit country, which descended into crisis in 2012 after Islamist groups seized control of its vast northern desert for several months, prompting a French-led military intervention. “This is a war government, but also a team that should make the return of peace in the north its priority,” a close associate of the president told AFP.

New Prime Minister Keita, named Thursday, was previously the president’s representative in peace talks launched in July between the government and jihadist rebels based in the north. His predecessor, Moussa Mara, lasted just eight months as premier. A member of the Tuareg minority, Mohamed Ag Erlaf, is the new minister of the environment, sanitation and sustainable development.

Other departing ministers include those for industry and education. Dramane Dembele, an unsuccessful candidate in the 2012 presidential election, becomes minister of urban development and housing.

AFP

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