BAMAKO (AFP) – Mali's first post-war prime minister began Friday the task of forming a government expected to deliver on promises by the president to reunite a deeply divided nation and crack down on corruption.
Career technocrat Oumar Tatam Ly, made head of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's government on Thursday, took over from interim premier Diango Cissoko at a ceremony in the capital Bamako before turning to the job of picking his team of ministers.
"I am ready to meet the challenges and tasks that have been assigned to me by the president," he said in a brief statement.
Ly has spent most of the last two decades as a central bank functionary and is expected to rely on advisors with more political know-how while he chooses colleagues in a cabinet charged with returning stability to a country upended by a military coup and Islamist insurgency last year.
He began consultations with potential ministers immediately after being appointed on Thursday, his aides told AFP, although none would reveal who was in consideration for the big portfolios.
Ly's appointment has been met with cautious approval in the mainstream media, with daily newspaper Le Soir describing the 49-year-old as "a choice in line with the wishes of Malians".
The reaction on social networks was mixed, with some taking to Twitter to express doubts over the appointment of "an apolitical prime minister in a very political period", as one critic wrote, while others were more generous.
"The nomination of this man who has had a career first will be a model for the youth of Mali and bodes well for a well-governed Mali..." World Bank economist and Malian politician Madani Tall tweeted.
Born in Paris, Ly quickly became a promising academic, gaining degrees in history and economics from a number of prestigious French universities including the Sorbonne and ESSEC, one of Europe's top business schools.
He began his career at the World Bank before moving via the general secretariat of the president of Mali to the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) in 1994, rising through the ranks to become national director for Mali and then advisor to the governor.
While has never held high public office, Ly comes from a family deeply involved in west African politics and is considered a close confidant of Keita.
His father was the late novelist and political activist Ibrahima Ly, who fled Mali after being jailed and allegedly tortured under the regime of military dictator Moussa Traore.
Ly's main task in the months ahead will be to deliver on the president's pledge when he was sworn in on Wednesday to unite Mali and end endemic corruption.
But his daunting in-tray will also include tackling an economy battered by conflict, as well as healing ethnic divisions in the north and managing the return of 500,000 people who fled the Islamist insurgency.
Army officers angry at what they considered a lack of support to combat a separatist Tuareg rebellion in Mali's vast desert north overthrew the democratically elected government of President Amadou Toumani Toure on March 22, 2012.
In the chaos that followed, the Tuaregs seized control of an area larger than France before being ousted by Al-Qaeda-linked groups who imposed a brutal interpretation of Islamic law on the local population, carrying out amputations and executions.
Their actions drew worldwide condemnation and prompted France to launch a military offensive at Mali's behest to oust the Islamists in January.
The country's return to democracy has allowed France to begin withdrawing some of the 4,500 troops it had sent in.