ECOWAS Dissatisfied With Mali’s Election 24 Month-Long Delay
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has expressed its disappointment with Mali’s interim government’s decision to postpone the restoration to civilian rule for another 24 months while negotiations between the two sides continue.
Mali’s military government, which took power in an August 2020 coup, issued a decree on Monday, June 6th establishing a 24-month countdown period for the transition back to civilian rule that will have begun in March 2022.
The Economic Community of West African States, which has 15 members, pushed for a 16-month extension earlier this year. After the junta stated it would be delaying the process and not holding democratic elections as planned, ECOWAS imposed harsh sanctions in January.
Since early this year, ECOWAS has imposed crushing sanctions on Mali, which would be withdrawn if a transition agreement could be reached.
These sanctions include the recall of ECOWAS ambassadors accredited to Mali, the closure of land and air borders, the suspension of all commercial and financial transactions except for food, pharmaceuticals, medical supplies, and equipment, including materials for the control of COVID-19, petroleum products, and electricity, the freezing of Malian assets in ECOWAS central banks, and the suspension of all financial assistance and transactions.
Background to the sanctions
The sanctions were prompted by months of rising tensions between ECOWAS and Mali’s military-dominated transitional government over the timeline for the country’s return to civilian rule following two successful coup d’états led by Colonel Assimi Goita, the transitional government’s current leader. The first coup, which took place in August 2020, removed Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the elected president, who was ousted amid popular protests against his leadership over corruption, economic mismanagement, and a dispute over legislative elections.
In May 2021, the military junta overthrew the interim civilian-led administration after accusing transitional President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane of failing to fulfill their responsibilities. This threw off the transition schedule, which required the holding of presidential elections before February 27, 2022, thus forcing ECOWAS to enact sanctions.
Over the weekend in Ghana, heads of state from ECOWAS member countries agreed not to lift sanctions against Mali unless the junta provided a shorter transition period. They are expected to meet again before July 3rd.
According to the statement, an ECOWAS negotiator would continue to contact Malian authorities in order to establish a “mutually accepted schedule.”
President Macky Sall of Senegal has expressed optimism that a deal could be made with Mali’s ruling military junta on a schedule for restoring democratic rule.