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ECOWAS Moves Against Mali’s Military Junta, Shuts Borders, Recall Ambassadors

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With its latest stand against unconstitutional seizure of power, leaders of member states in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have shown strong resolve and commitment to issues of good governance and democracy in the sub-region, according to Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, SAN.
Prof. Osinbajo stated this on Sunday in Accra, Ghana, where he represented President Muhammadu Buhari at an Extraordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government to discuss the political situation in the Republic of Mali.
At the Summit on Sunday, ECOWAS agreed to impose additional sanctions on the military junta in Mali, withdraw all ECOWAS Ambassadors in the country, and also close land and air borders between ECOWAS Member States and Mali.
The Vice President disclosed that there is a strong resolve by ECOWAS Member States to stand against coup d’états in the sub-region.
Speaking to journalists after the Summit, Prof. Osinbajo said: “what is being done is unprecedented. In the years gone by, the African Union, then known as OAU and ECOWAS, never came down heavily on Coups de’tats; but there is evidence now that there is a very strong resolve that ECOWAS and, indeed, AU and the international community will not accept unconstitutional take over of government.”
Continuing, Prof. Osinbajo said, “it’s very evident that there is very strong resolve, which is why we are here today. We expect that the actions that will be taken will point the junta in Mali in the right direction.”
“I think ECOWAS has shown that it has not lost its bite where there are concerns about issues of good governance and democratic enterprises in the sub-region, which is why sanctions against Guinea and Mali were imposed.”
After reviewing the situation in Mali at the Extraordinary Summit, the sub-regional leaders rejected the transition schedule proposed by the Malian military junta, noting that “the proposed chronogram for a transition is totally unacceptable”.
The body also imposed additional sanctions on the junta, including the following:
a) Withdrawal of all ECOWAS Ambassadors in Mali;
b) Closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Mali;
c) Suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS Member States and Mali, with the exception of the following products: essential consumer goods; pharmaceutical products; medical supplies and equipment, including materials for the control of COVID-19 products, and electricity
d) Freeze of assets of the Republic of Mali in ECOWAS Central Banks;
e) Freeze of assets of the Malian State and the State Enterprises and Parastatals in Commercial Banks
f) Suspension of Mali from all financial assistance and transactions from financial institutions.
The communique also disclosed that the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government “instructs all Community institutions to take steps to implement these sanctions with immediate effect.”
Noting that the sanctions will only be gradually lifted “after an acceptable and agreed transition chronogram is finalised and monitored-satisfactory progress is realised in the implementation of the chronogram for the elections.”
Regarding Guinea, ECOWAS noted that it remained concerned about the slow progress of the transition process four months after the coup.
According to the Communique issued at the end of the meeting, “The Authority regrets the absence of chronogram for the election and the non-setting up of the National Council of Transition (CNT). It also directs that a mission be fielded to Conakry to discuss the transition.”
Earlier in his remarks at the opening session of the Summit, Chairman of ECOWAS, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, praised the commitment and support of West African leaders to the progress and prosperity of the sub-region.
Recalling the efforts of the leaders in resolving the crisis in parts of the sub-region, President Akufo-Addo said, “as you did through the entire year of 2021, you continue to demonstrate your commitment to responding to urgent and critical evolving situations in the region.
“This is the 6th Extraordinary Summit since I assumed the chair of the Authority that Your Excellencies have participated in concerning the vexed issues of Mali and Guinea. It is a strong testimony to your leadership and concern to the progress of ECOWAS.”
Aside from Vice President Osinbajo and the Ghanaian President – who presided at the Summit, other West African leaders present at the Summit were Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal; George Weah of Liberia; Patrice Talon of Benin Republic; Roch Marc Christian Kaboré of Burkina Faso, and Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire.
Other Heads of State present include Umaro Embalò of the Republic of Guinea Bissau; Mohamed Bazoum of Niger Republic; Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone, and the Vice President of The Gambia, Isatou Touray.
The session was also attended by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, who is the ECOWAS Mediator for Mali; the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou; among other representatives of international organisation.
Junta Condemns ECOWAS Sanctions
Meanwhile, Mali’s Col Assimi Goita-led interim authority has rejected as “illegal and illegitimate,” the economic and financial sanctions imposed on Mali by regional blocs ECOWAS and UEMOA.
Leaders of both regional organisations after their Summits in Accra, Ghana on January 9, 2022 also announced the closure of borders and withdrawal of members’ Ambassadors from Mali.
In its response, Mali’s interim authority described the sanctions as violations of the both organisations’ principles and legal texts. It warned that Malian population already suffering from the bitting effects of deadly insecurity and Covid-19 pandemic would be badly hurt.
The interim government appealed to the citizens to remain calm, warning that the Malian armed forces would be vigilant to protect the country’s sovereignty in apparent reference to ECOWAS’ decision to “activate the regional Stand-by Force for any eventuality.”
The government said the sanctions came at a time when Malian Armed Forces were recording successes in the fight against terrorism in the country.
The tightening of sanctions followed the regional organisations’ rejection of the five-year transition timetable announced by the interim authority in the aftermath of two military coups led by Goita in August 2020 and May 2021.
The Bamako regime said the previous transition timetable that provided for elections next month was abandoned because of the required political and constitutional reforms.
The sanctions against Mali are unprecedented in the history of both organisations. Their crippling effects could compound the political instability and insecurity in the country, which terrorists and jihadists are currently using as a launching pad for deadly attacks on neighbouring countries, especially Burkina Faso and Niger.
In rejecting the five-year transition timetable, the regional organisations also failed to provide any timeline.
Are the sanctions too harsh and what is the role of France, the former colonial power in Mali, which is reducing its forces in the troubled Sahel region but at the same time opposes Mali’s plan to obtain military support from Russia?
ECOWAS can ill-afford further destabilisation with potential consequences of humanitarian disaster, displacements and more refugees amid the troubling perception of recession of democracy and rising military incursions in politics in the region.
The sanctions might be designed to serve as deterrent against putschists, but how effective will they be in resolving the complex and complicated political and security problems in Mali?
Only structured, strategic, honest and dispassionate engagements/negotiations based on good faith and with the interests of ordinary Malians at heart could be the way forward.
ECOWAS leaders themselves, must also play by the rules and stop “political coups,” the illegal alteration of national constitutions, election rigging, tenure elongation, corruption, blatant human rights violation and oppression of citizens.
Only good governance can deliver the dividends of democracy; guarantee peace and security and stop military coups, not sanctions!

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