West African bloc ECOWAS maintains Mali sanctions over delayed elections

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West Africa’s regional bloc said on Friday it would maintain sanctions on Mali over the Sahel’s military rulers who delayed a return to civilian rule after the coup.

At the end of a summit in Ghana, the Economic Community of West African states also issued a warning to juntas that had recently seized power in Guinea and Burkina Faso.

ECOWAS said military leaders in Guinea must provide “an acceptable timeline for transition” by the end of April, or it will impose punitive measures on the government and the National Transition Council (CNT).

The bloc said in a statement that, if Burkina Faso’s junta does not release former President Roach Marc Christian Kabor from house arrest by Thursday next week, “personal sanctions” will also apply.

Talks took place in Ghana’s capital Accra after the bloc imposed tough sanctions on Mali.

They had opened “behind closed doors between heads of state”, Malian Foreign Minister Aboudale Diop tweeted earlier in the day.

According to an ECOWAS document seen by AFP, the leader of Mali’s junta, Asimi Goita, was invited to the summit.

But it was unclear at the opening whether he was in attendance, physically or virtually.

The summit took place almost a week after an ECOWAS envoy to Mali visited Bamako, but talks on restoring civilian rule were inconclusive.

The 15-nation bloc is pushing Mali’s military, which seized power in 2020, to hold elections within 12-16 months.

But the mighty Goita has so far defied international pressure to hold elections.

Four coups from 2020

On Thursday, a court of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) ordered the suspension of Mali sanctions.

It was not clear whether the UEMOA court’s suspension decision would lead to an immediate removal of the sanctions.

Both ECOWAS and UEMOA imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on Mali in January, when the junta proposed five years in power.

Mali’s junta considers the sanctions illegal and has vowed to challenge them in international courts.

Much of Mali, a vast country of 21 million people, is plagued by a jihadist conflict that first emerged in 2012 and spread to neighboring Burkina Faso and Niger.

Goita seized power in Mali in August 2020, then installed an interim government led by citizens.

But in May 2021, he deposed those civilian leaders – in a second coup. He was later sworn in as the interim President.

In Guinea in September last year, Colonel Mamadi Doumbouya overthrew elected President Alpha Condé, who sparked massive protests by seeking a controversial third term in office.

And Burkina Faso’s Lieutenant-Colonel Paul-Henri Sandogo Damiba toppled Kabor in January after two days of army mutiny amid frustration with the jihadist conflict.

ECOWAS has suspended the membership of all three countries.


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