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Mali junta slams West African border closures, trade embargo

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Mali junta slams West African border closures, trade embargo

Mali‘s military regime on Monday strongly condemned West African sanctions, including border closures and a trade embargo over delays in returning to civilian rule, and said regional leaders were being “exploited” by foreign powers. .

The junta also announced the removal of its ambassadors and the closure of its borders in a tit-for-tat move.

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting on Sunday agreed to cut financial aid and freeze Mali’s assets at the Central Bank of West African States, according to a final statement.

They also decided to call their ambassadors in Mali during the extraordinary closed-door meeting in Ghana.

A proposal by Mali’s military rulers to hold elections in December 2026 “simply means that an illegitimate military transitional government will hold the Malian people hostage for the next five years,” ECOWAS said.

In response to a statement read on national television on Monday, the board’s spokesman, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, said that he “strongly condemned these illegal and illegitimate sanctions.”

The board said the measures “would affect populations already severely affected by the security crisis and the health crisis,” but added that it had made arrangements to ensure normal supply “by all appropriate means.”

Increasing tensions
The meeting followed months of mounting tensions over the timetable for restoring civilian rule in Mali after two coups and a military takeover.

The new sanctions are even harsher than those imposed after the first coup in August 2020, which is believed to have forced the junta at the time to agree to return power to civilians within 18 months of the elections.

The current military regime says it cannot organize elections scheduled for late February, citing the security situation in the country.

Since the first coup in which army officers led by Colonel Assimi Goita overthrew President-elect Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, ECOWAS has pushed for a return to civilian rule as soon as possible.

Under threat of sanctions, Goita promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022 after holding presidential and legislative elections.

But it struck a second blow in May 2021, forcing an interim civilian government, disrupting the reform calendar and sparking widespread diplomatic condemnation.

ECOWAS insisted that Mali hold elections in February.

But the board later said it would set an election date only after holding a national conference, arguing that a peaceful vote was more important than speed.

‘It’s a prank’
The board sent two ministers to Accra on Saturday to present a new calendar proposal.

The move was aimed at “maintaining dialogue and good cooperation with ECOWAS,” Malian Foreign Minister Abdoulaye Diop said, without elaborating.

“Mali’s counterproposal is for a four-year transition,” said a senior Ghana official, who holds the ECOWAS presidency. “It’s a prank.”

The 15-nation bloc has led the push for the former French colony to fulfill its commitment to hold elections earlier this year.

The bloc’s drive to ensure a return to civilian government has put its credibility at stake, as it seeks to uphold the fundamental principles of governance and contain regional instability.

Swathes of Mali are outside state control, and the government is fighting to quell a jihadist insurgency that has raged since 2012.

At a summit on December 12, ECOWAS leaders reiterated demands that the elections be held on February 27 as originally planned.

They maintained sanctions such as an asset freeze and travel ban within the ECOWAS region against around 150 board members and their families, and threatened more “economic and financial” measures.

ECOWAS did not impose sanctions immediately after Mali’s second coup in May 2021, but in November it opted for specific measures against individual board members because of perceived delays in electoral preparations.

Analysts say regional leaders must consider the risks of pitting Malians against ECOWAS.

Source Credit: TheGuardian

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