MALI’S military government has reacted strongly to the decision by the regional economic and political grouping ECOWAS to impose sanctions on the country over the junta’s timetable for return to civilian rule.
West African leaders have decided to impose ‘very harsh’ sanctions on Mali after the country’s military rulers delayed a return to civilian government.
The leaders agreed to the measures on Sunday, during an extraordinary gathering of the bloc in Ghana.
The bloc will close borders with Mali and impose stringent economic sanctions in response to an ‘unacceptable’ delay by the country in holding promised elections after a 2020 military coup, the organisation said.
The move is a significant hardening of the ECOWAS’ stance on Mali, whose interim authorities have proposed holding elections in December 2025 instead of this February as originally agreed.
In a communique issued after the emergency summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra, ECOWAS said it found the proposed timetable for a transition back to constitutional rule totally unacceptable.
This schedule ‘simply means that an illegitimate military transition Government will take the Malian people hostage,’ it said.
Previous sanctions over Mali
The 15-member bloc said it had agreed to impose additional sanctions with immediate effect.
These included the closure of members’ land and air borders with Mali, the suspension of non-essential financial transactions, and the freezing of Malian state assets in ECOWAS commercial banks and by the central bank of the eight-nation West African CFA franc zone.
There was no immediate response from the Malian authorities, who have blamed the delay partly on the challenge of organising a democratically robust vote amid a violent insurgency.
Under previous sanctions, Mali’s ECOWAS membership is suspended and members of the transitional authority and their relatives are subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
The new measures will be gradually lifted only after an acceptable election timeframe is finalised and progress is made towards implementing it, ECOWAS said.
Mali has however rejected the ECOWAS decision saying, ‘These measures contrast with the efforts made by the government and its availability for dialogue with a view to finding a compromise with ECOWAS on the timetable for elections in Mali.’
In a strongly-worded statement issued late Sunday, the Mali government said it ‘strongly condemns these illegal and illegitimate sanctions taken by UEMOA and ECOWAS, organisations nevertheless founded on solidarity and the Pan-African ideal, curiously at a time when the Malian Armed Forces are achieving spectacular results in the fight against terrorism, which had not happened for over a decade.’
The statement added that an embargo decided by the ‘Heads of State and Government, applicable to a sovereign State constitutes a clear violation of the WAMU Treaty and the statutes of the BCEAO. In addition, the freezing of the assets of a State, public and parastatal companies cannot be applied by the Central Bank, which remains an independent body to which each Member State has granted its sovereign rights of issue.’