Mali surrounded by difficulties

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has just imposed additional sanctions on Mali, aiming at punishing the West African country for delaying the restoration of a civilian government. The tough decision, together with the COVID-19 pandemic and economic stagnation, is expected to push Mali into a situation surrounded by difficulties.

A social organisation provides support for the people of Mali. (Photo: ASME)
A social organisation provides support for the people of Mali. (Photo: ASME)

The leaders of the ECOWAS countries, in an extraordinary meeting, agreed to impose a series of tough sanctions on Mali, including recalling ambassadors of all ECOWAS member countries from Bamako, closing both air and land borders, and suspending all financial and economic transactions, except for essential consumer goods.

ECOWAS sanctions against Mali will take effect immediately. Previously, ECOWAS also imposed some sanctions on Bamako, in August 2020.

The sanctions decision made by ECOWAS shows a sign of “the final straw” as the organisation is no longer patient enough, while the West African national military government finds every excuse to delay the restoration of a civilian government, after two coups and a military takeover.

While ECOWAS has been pressuring Mali to hold legal elections in February, to give the people the right to choose a civilian government, the Mali’s military junta insisted that the election date will be fixed, only after the organisation of a nationwide conference.

ECOWAS has maintained its tough stance and previously issued warnings against Mali. At the ECOWAS Summit held in Nigeria in mid-December 2021, West African leaders demanded that Mali adhere to its plan of holding elections in February 2022, or they would impose additional sanctions as of January 2022.

ECOWAS President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou stated that the organisation has given Mali many opportunities, but Bamako has lost every chance, even though the head of the Malian military government previously pledged to ECOWAS, to submit the timeframe for the January 2022 election.

Mali has been suspended from membership by ECOWAS, after two military coups occurred in the West African country in less than a year, in August 2020 and May 2021. ECOWAS also imposed sanctions against the military leadership of Mali in November 2021.

Under pressure from ECOWAS and the international community, Mali's military junta pledged to hand over power to civilian forces, after presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled to be held in early 2022. The minister in charge of the territorial administration of the Malian military junta, Lieutenant Colonel Abboulaye Maiga affirmed that he would hold the first round of the presidential election on February 27, 2022 and the second round a month later, while strictly following the commitment to an 18-month transitional process, to return the country's leadership to a civilian government.

However, the commitments of the Malian junta were broken, by themselves, just before the scheduled elections. Mali's government also proposed a five-year “buffer period” to transfer power from military to civilian, but was flatly rejected by ECOWAS and a coalition of political parties in Mali.

The United Nations has also actively contributed to the restoration of security and order in Mali, as demonstrated by the appointment of experienced figure, El Ghassim Wane as Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Mali.

This Mauritian diplomat has many years of service in the African Union (AU) and worked as the Assistant of the UN Secretary-General regarding peacekeeping operations. Since his appointment in March 2021, Wane has been active in mediation and conducting numerous shuttle trips to Mali and the region. However, these efforts are only like a “stone thrown in the pond” amid the indifference and lack of cooperation of the Malian military government.

In the context of tightening sanctions, unstable security, economic downturn, and the COVID-19 pandemic, the international community looks forward to a positive move in the transfer of power, so that the people of the West African country can enter the new year, with a bright and stable future.