Dubbed “the big one” for his imposing height, Mali’s future interim president Bah Ndaw has served dictators and presidents alike throughout his long military career.
Officials appointed by the Sahel state’s ruling junta hauled him out of retirement on Monday by naming him leader of a new transitional government.
The move came after West African leaders heaped pressure on Mali’s junta to return power to civilians after a August 18 coup that toppled president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
It remains unclear how Mali’s neighbours will react to the nomination of a figure with such strong links to the army.
The 70-year-old former colonel, who stands at 1.9 metres (6 ft, 3 in) tall, is a consumate military man.
Hailing from central Mali, he signed up for the army in 1973 before being selected to undergo helicopter pilot training in the former Soviet Union the following year.
In the following years he rose to become an aide-de-camp to Mali’s former dictator Moussa Traore, who died last week aged 83.
Ndaw then racked up a series of high-profile appointments: air force chief of staff, director of military engineering, and deputy chief of staff of the national guard, among others.
He retired as a colonel major in 2012, for the first time.
But just two years later Keita named him defence minister after mostly ethnic-Tuareg rebels drove the Malian army out of the northern city of Kidal.
Mali has been gripped by violence since Tuareg separatists captured much of the north in 2012, in a conflict which has since been exploited by jihadists.
Islamist violence has since inflamed a Sahel-wide conflict, spreading to central Mali as well as neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger, claiming thousands of lives.
Ndaw, in the end, only acted as defence minister for several months.
Tensions over the long-running conflict, coupled with a dire economy and a widespread anger about corruption, escalated across the poor nation.
Those frustrations led to street protests against president Keita this year, culminating in the military arresting him and seizing power last month.
Mali’s neighbours blocked the country’s borders and imposed a trade embargo following the coup, which they have warned they will keep in place should the junta not appoint civilians to the new transitional government.
According to a junta-backed roadmap on restoring civilian rule, the transitional president is meant to rule for at longest 18 months before staging national elections.
Bah Ndaw is set to be sworn into office at a ceremony on Friday, alongside his vice president, junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita.