West African leaders have imposed a new raft of economic and diplomatic sanctions on Mali. The suspension includes freezing of Malian state assets, closure of land and air borders, withdrawal of ambassadors in Mali as well as suspension of all commercial and financial transactions.
Regional monetary union UEMOA instructed all financial institutions under its umbrella to suspend Mali with immediate effect, severing the country’s access to regional financial markets.
The move to impose the sanctions follows after Mali’s Military Junta announced that they would stay in power for the next 5 years instead of holding elections in February 2022 as initially agreed.
The announcement of the sanctions was made Sunday January 9th, at a summit of the 15 member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) held in Accra, capital city of Ghana. The sanctions are to be implemented with immediate effect and there has been no direct response from Malian authorities as yet.
ECOWAS said it found the proposed timetable for a transition back to constitutional rule totally unacceptable. In a communique issued after an emergency summit ECOWAS added that the change in schedule “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage.”
ECOWAS insists that Mali should hold elections in February 2022. The new measures will be gradually lifted only after an acceptable election timeframe is finalized and progress is made towards implementing it, ECOWAS said.
The current situation in Mali is a result of events that happened in August 2020, when Colonel Assimi Goita overthrew Former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. That coup followed weeks of protests against corruption and Keita’s response to a violent jihadist insurgency.
France and countries bordering Mali forced Goita’s hand to pledge that Mali would return to democratic civilian rule next month following presidential and legislative elections.
Instead of adhering to that transition plan, Goita instead staged another coup in May 2021 which forced out interim civilian leaders and pushed back the transition timeline. The move disrupted the reform timetable and was met with widespread diplomatic condemnation.
The army said insecurity in northern Mali was the primary driver for postponing elections. The government does not control over half of Mali’s territory.
Various armed groups are jockeying for power, including groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the Islamic State.
Mali’s military-dominated government has strongly condemned the “illegal” sanctions imposed on the country by ECOWAS, adding that it has closed its land borders “with the states concerned”.
Military spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said in a televised statement on Monday that “the government of Mali strongly condemns these illegal and illegitimate sanctions”.
“On the basis of reciprocity, Mali has decided to recall its ambassadors and close its land and air borders with the states concerned,” he added.
In a statement on Monday, Mali authorities accused ECOWAS and UEMOA of being “exploited by extra-regional powers with ulterior motives”, an apparent reference to Mali’s partners engaged militarily in the Sahel such as France.
Mali’s transitional government said it “deplores the inhuman nature of these measures which affect populations already severely affected by the security crisis and the health crisis”.
Malian people will suffer the most due to the sanctions, especially since Mali is already considered to be one of the poorest countries in the world.
The political turmoil in Mali has also added to the tension that it has with former colonial power France. Currently, France has troups of soldiers deployed across West Africa’s Sahel region to battle Islamist insurgents.
Faced with the West African embargo, the government said it had made arrangements to ensure normal supplies “by all appropriate means” and called on the population to remain calm.