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Mali: West African leaders sanction the retention of the junta in power

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Colonel Assimi Goïta, head of state and interim president of Mali, came to power in August 2020 following a military-led coup.

Members of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), sitting behind closed doors in the Ghanaian capital, reacted vigorously to the Malian state’s plan to postpone the elections until 2026. These were originally scheduled for February 27 this year.

Assimi Goïta in military uniform during a ceremony.

Colonel Assimi Goïta in July 2021.

Photo: Reuters / AMADOU KEITA

The Economic Community of West African States has decided to close the borders with Mali and to suspend trade other than basic necessities, read a press release.

It also decided to cancel its financial aid and freeze Mali’s assets at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).

Member countries will repatriate their ambassadors to Mali, the scene of two military coups since 2020 and in the grip of a deep humanitarian crisis.

Disciplinary measures until further notice

These sanctions take effect immediately, they said. They will not be gradually lifted until the Malian authorities present a timetable. acceptable and that satisfactory progress will be observed in its implementation.

The proposal of the Malian junta to organize the presidential election in December 2026 is totally unacceptable, estimate the Economic Community of West African States. She simply means that an illegitimate transitional military government will take the Malian people hostage over the next five years.

Dozens of soldiers march in cadence, one arm in the air.

Malian soldiers marched in Bamako on the occasion of a military parade organized on the occasion of the country’s 60th anniversary of independence on September 22, 2020.

Photo: Getty Images / AFP / MICHELE CATTANI

These sanctions are even more rigorous than those adopted after the first coup d’état in August 2020. In the midst of the pandemic, they were severely felt in a landlocked country among the poorest in the world.

The junta says today that it is unable to organize presidential and legislative elections as planned at the end of February, citing persistent insecurity in the country, plagued by jihadist violence. It underlines the need for preliminary reforms so that the elections do not suffer from contestation, like the previous ones.

The Economic Community of West African States calls for the return of civilians to power as quickly as possible.

Postponing elections is a joke

Sensing West African wrath, the junta sent two ministers from its government to Accra on Saturday to submit a revised timetable.

The new offer was presented in order to maintain dialogue and good cooperation with the Economic Community of West African States, said on national television on Saturday one of the two emissaries, the Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdoulaye Diop, without specifying the content.

The Malian counter-proposal is a four-year transition. It’s a jokesaid a senior Ghanaian official on condition of anonymity, whose country currently holds the presidency of the Economic Community of West African States.

For the organization, whose credibility is at stake, it is a question of defending its fundamental principles of governance and of containing regional instability.

Armed soldiers and jeeps.

The army provides security while a mediating delegation from the Economic Community of West African States met Vice-President Assimi Goïta in Bamako (archives).

Photo: Reuters / AMADOU KEITA

Measurement of the importance of the stakes for the Economic Community of West African States As for the country at the heart of Sahelian instability, it was the eighth time that West African leaders met, together or in videoconference, to talk specifically about Mali (with Guinea after another putsch in September 2021) since August 2020, not counting regular summits.

The Economic Community of West African States had already suspended Mali from its decision-making bodies and imposed a freeze on their financial assets and a travel ban on 150 personalities, whom it accuses of obstructing the elections. These sanctions remain in force to this day.

At a summit on December 12, she brandished the threat of sanctions economic and financial additional. But the situation called for delicate decisions on her part, exposing her to the risk of pointing the Malians against her, analysts say.

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