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West African leaders agree on sanctions after Mali coup

January 9, 2022

West African leaders have imposed punitive measures on Mali as the military stalls a return to civilian rule. The move comes as regional leaders met in Ghana to discuss the crisis.

ECOWAS leaders pose for a socially distanced group photo in Accra, Ghana
Leaders of the West African bloc ECOWAS agreed on stiff sanctions for Mali for delaying its transition to civilian ruleImage: IVORY COAST PRESIDENTIAL PRESS SERVICE/REUTERS

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met Sunday during an extraordinary summit of the 15-nation bloc in the Ghanaian capital, Accra, and agreed to impose economic sanctions on Mali.

The punitive measures include sealing all land and air borders with the country. Nonessential financial transactions will be suspended, with Malian assets also being frozen in the ECOWAS central bank. 

The meeting comes after the military offered timelines of four to five years for the transition to civilian rule, citing security concerns. 

What have ECOWAS and Mali's leaders said?

Burkina Faso's president, Roch Marc Christian Kabore, said Sunday the delay proposed in returning Mali to civilian rule "is of concern to the entire West African region."

Responding to the announcement early on Monday, Mali's junta said it "strongly" condemned the "illegal" and "inhuman" sanctions.

In a statement, the military accused the countries involved of being "exploited by extra-regional powers with ulterior motives," and recalled their ambassadors to Bamako.

ECOWAS has not budged in holding Goita to his initial promise of elections next month.

Mali's military leaders, however, have said elections could only go forward after a nationwide conference to draft a new constitution, a lengthy process. They have argued that a peaceful vote free of violence is more important than when the vote takes place.

Late last month, a conference focused on reforms in Mali concluded with the government stating a transition could occur anywhere from six months to five years from the start of the new year.

During a recent visit to Mali's capital, Bamako, ECOWAS mediator Goodluck Jonathan reportedly requested the regime alter those plans and speed up the return of civilian rule in the fragile West African nation.

Why has ECOWAS imposed sanctions?

In August 2020, Colonel Assimi Goita ousted the elected civilian leader Ibrahim Boubacar Keita as street protests raged.

With the looming threat of sanctions, Goita offered to restore civilian rule by February 2022, though he staged a second coup last May which removed the interim civilian leaders of the fragile and highly unstable nation.

The second, de facto coup postponed the timetable for the restoration of civilian rule and instilled serious doubts regarding his intentions among regional leaders and the international community.

Mali is facing a decadelong Islamist insurgency of concern to many Western nations.

ar/wd (AFP, AP, Reuters)

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