News24

Mali's new president 'not a politician'

2012-04-10 23:02

Bamako - Dioncounda Traore, who will be sworn in as Mali's interim president on Thursday, is a 70-year-old mathematician who described himself as a "political leader" but not a "politician".

Traore was chosen to oversee his country's return to democratic rule following March 22 army coup that toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure.

A Tuesday Constitutional Court ruling approved Toure's weekend resignation, paving the way for Traore to be sworn in, with the ceremony set for Thursday morning, a source close to the court said.

Traore was once a teacher, then worked with trade unions and later entered politics, serving most recently as the speaker of parliament.

"I'm a mathematician, I was a trade unionist and I remain so in spirit," he told AFP Sunday shortly after Toure officially resigned, paving the way for army leaders to step down and for a return to democratic rule.

"For a politician, the end justifies the means, but not for a political leader," says Traore, who vows to defend "solidarity" and "justice".

Sporting a light beard and thinly-mounted glasses, Traore is expected to be sworn in as president under the terms of transitional deal signed between the ruling junta and west African leaders.

He will then be tasked with organising elections - if possible within 40 days, according to the agreement.

Speaker

Traore has held the job of parliamentary speaker since 2007 and has been leader of the Alliance for Democracy in Mali-African Party for Solidarity and Justice (ADEMA-PASJ) since 2000.

He also headed the Alliance for Democracy and Progress (ADP), an umbrella organisation for parties that backed Toure's re-election in 2007.

Born on February 23 1942 in Kati, near Bamako, he is married and has seven children.

He speaks French, Russian, English and Spanish, along with the local Bambara and Soninke dialects. He underwent military training for three years, one of them as a paratrooper, according to his official biography.

His aides describe him as someone "very keen on working towards consensus" and "a man of the people".

In parliament, "his office is open to everyone", said an aide.

For a member of parliament, who said he does not always agree with him, Traore "has the pragmatic approach of a scientist".

He studied mathematics in the Soviet Union and Algeria, before being awarded a doctorate in France.

Civil servant

After 1992, he occupied several ministerial portfolios, including that of head of the civil service, defence, and foreign affairs.

He was elected to parliament in 1997, and was to have run in the presidential election, originally scheduled for April 29, as the ADEMA-PASJ candidate.

His campaign posters are still plastered around the capital, but he left the country following the March 22 military coup and only returned on Saturday after west African leaders forced Mali's coup leaders to renounce power.

"Dioncounda only dared return once things had calmed down," lamented Abdoulaye Camara, a young man who said he cannot understand why Traore did not speak out "when the country was burning".

"He neither spoke in his own name, nor in that of parliament, nor in that of ADEMA. For me, that's hardly the attitude of a statesman," he added.