Mali: A who’s who of Bah N’Daw’s transitional government cabinet
Mali's discreet leader of the transition, Bah N'Daw, has wrapped up his first official visit to France. But who is in his inner-circle of regulars in the corridors of the Presidential Palace?
Designated president of the transition on 21 September, Bah N’Daw is a discreet man. This retired colonel major, known for his integrity and intransigence, will need to be a leader for all Malians – whether they are from the former regime, armed groups or the Mouvement du 5 juin – Rassemblement des forces patriotiques [Movement of 5 June – Rally of Patriotic Forces] (M5-RFP) – in order to carry out the mission entrusted to him after the coup that overthrew Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK) on 18 August 2020.
Throughout his career, he has worked within the various regimes that have followed one another. He served as an aide-de-camp to Moussa Traoré, deputy chief of staff of the air force under Alpha Oumar Konaré – who was the director of the National Office for retired military veterans and victims of war when Amadou Toumani Touré served as president – and then became IBK’s Minister of Defence.
To accompany him during the 18 months of transition, N’Daw is counting on his vice-president, Assimi Goïta, as well as a team of military personnel and civilians. His first cabinet is composed of regulars of the presidency, in whom he has full confidence.
Adam Thiam is a renowned journalist, former humanitarian executive and social scientist. He heads the communication and public relations unit of the Presidency. He was also the spokesperson for Konaré (2003-2005) when the latter was president of the African Union Commission and was called upon in November 2019 by IBK, then in the midst of a socio-political crisis.
Still influential, he now also has the ear of N’Daw, whom he accompanied during his first official visit to Paris. In 2013, Dioncounda Traoré had already requested his services.
N’Daw is the second transitional president to place his trust in him. Naman had also been in charge of Traoré’s transitional government, after the coup of 2012. He held the same position under IBK when the latter was president of the National Assembly.
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Dr. Kalilou Doumbia, a lecturer-researcher at the University of Law and Political Science in Bamako, was appointed secretary general on 29 January. He had been acting as interim since Sékou Traoré’s dismissal at the end of 2020, who had been accused of attempted destabilisation.
Traoré himself had served as Kamissa Camara’s deputy, when the latter had been secretary general. He was then appointed by N’Daw to his cabinet a few days after N’Daw’s inauguration.
Doumbia – a specialist in administrative litigation – was reputed to be close to the Comité national pour le salut du peuple [National Committee for the Salvation of the People] (CNSP), the main architect of the military coup against President IBK and which N’Daw dissolved by decree on 18 January. He thus remained linked to Goïta, the vice-president of the transition.
The President’s chief of staff is a retired colonel major. He was appointed on 28 September 2020, three days after N’Daw and Goïta were sworn in.
Sinaly Moussa Dembélé
A lieutenant-colonel in the army, he was appointed aide-de-camp to N’Daw at the end of November 2020. He has the rank of technical advisor to the general secretariat of the Presidency. He is assisted by the squadron commander Ahmadou Hamahoullahou Sidibé.
This career diplomat was appointed at the end of October 2020 as diplomatic adviser to the president, with the rank of ambassador. Former secretary general of the organising committee of the Africa-France summit – organised in Mali in 2017 – he is close to Abdoullah Coulibaly, organiser of the Bamako forum.
Askia was also a communications advisor to former president Konaré and a member of Toumani Touré’s campaign team.
He was appointed IBK’s chief of staff in 2015 and remains in this position within N’Daw’s government. This surgeon by training, who practised in France, was one of the former president’s closest collaborators. He often took part in the transitional president’s hearings.