Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore returned to Bamako Friday amid tight security following a two-month stay in Paris for medical treatment
Mali's interim president Dioncounda Traore returned to Bamako Friday amid tight security following a two-month stay in Paris for medical treatment after being savagely beaten in his office.
Armed, masked men kept watch on roofs as Traore landed at 5:20 pm (1720 GMT) in a country in a worse state of crisis than when he left it, greeted by embattled Prime Minister Cheick Modibo Diarra.
Ex-junta leader Captain Amadou Sanogo, who led a March 22 coup, was also present, reports AFP.
Traore was attacked by a mob protesting his appointment on May 21, the eve of the official start of a transition period for a return to democratic rule in the troubled west African country after a March 22 coup.
Hardline Islamists have strengthened their hold on the vast desert north of the country, which they seized after the coup. The interim government which took over from the junta has proved powerless to deal with the occupation.
Diarra is trying to cobble together a wider unity government on the orders of mediators from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional bloc to deal with the mounting crisis.
ECOWAS wants to send a 3,000-strong military force to Mali, but is waiting for United Nations approval and a formal request from Bamako.
Mali has until July 31 to form the unity government, a process which faces further hurdles after key political parties called for Diarra to step down, accusing him of "incompetence and amateurishness".
They also accuse him of having no clear plan to win back the north, saying his roadmap out of the crisis was "concocted under the pressure of events".
Traore, whose own party was one of the signatories to the statement demanding the prime minister's resignation, will have to decide whether to keep the astrophysicist in the post.
Burkinabe Foreign Minister Djibrill Bassole, who has been involved in mediation efforts, said Friday that if Traore needed more time to form the inclusive government "he can approach his fellow heads of state".
Traore also faces the continued influence of ex-junta leader Sanogo, who has been accused by the African Union of meddling in political affairs, and by rights bodies of overseeing torture and enforced disappearances.
Prime Minister Diarra, who has worked for NASA and was also the Microsoft chairman for Africa, is the son-in-law of Moussa Traore who became president of Mali after ousting a previous regime and ruled for 23 years until 1991.
Many in Mali see him as too close to the former putschists led by Sanogo.
Traore's main concern will be reuniting a country which has been effectively split in two by Islamists acting under the aegis of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, who are in control of an area larger than France.