West African leaders have imposed tougher sanctions on Mali, including economic blockade, as punishment for failing to meet its deadline to transfer power to a civilian administration.
The decision was taken at an extraordinary summit of heads of state and government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in the Ghanaian capital, Accra on Sunday 9th January 2022.
A total of eleven heads of state were in attendance, among them Presidents Julius Maada Bio, George Weah of Liberia and Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire.
Leaders from outside the ECOWAS region who attended it include Senegalese president Macky Sall, Patrice Talon of Benin, Roch Marc Christian Kabore of Burkina Faso, Mohamed Bazoum of Niger, and Faure Gnassingbe of Togo.
Vice-President Yemi Osibanjo represented Nigerian President Mohammadu Buari.
The summit was held under the chairmanship of Ghanaian President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, who is the chairperson of the bloc.
Mali has been under military rule since August 2020, when a group of soldiers led by Col. Assimi Goita overthrew the then democratically elected president Ibrahim Boubacarr Keita.
Nine months later, the soldiers again staged another coup, removing the civilian-led administration they had installed under pressure from ECOWAS.
The 16-member West African bloc prohibits military coups, in line with its protocol on good governance.
It gave the transition government an 18-month deadline to conduct election and transfer power by this February 27. But the military insisted that the time is not enough to meet the deadline.
After several dialogue, at its summit on November 7, 2021, the ECOWAS leaders imposed targeted sanctions on the members of the junta leadership and their families.
According to the communique issued after Sunday’s summit, those sanctions would be maintained, along with additional economic and financial sanctions.
All ECOWAS member countries will close their borders with Mali – both land and air, and suspend all commercial transactions with the country, with the exception of a select group of products that include essential consumer goods, pharmaceutical and medical supplies, as well as materials relevant to the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Petroleum products and electricity are also exempted.
ECOWAS will also freeze the assets of Mali in its regional central and commercial banks, and the country will be suspended from all financial assistance from ECOWAS financing institutions.
“These sanctions will be implemented immediately and will remain in force. The sanctions will be gradually lifted only after an acceptable and agreed chronogram is finalised and monitored satisfactory progress is realised in the implementation of the chronogram for the elections,” the communique signed by the heads of state present states.
In a rather militaristic tone, the bloc also hinted at the possibility of military action, noting that in view of the potentially destabilizing impact on Mali and on the region created by the transition, it had decided to immediately activate the ECOWAS Standby Force, which will have to be ready “for any eventuality.”