ECOWAS mediators, Mali coup leaders end talks with no decision on transitional government

Talks between mediators from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), led by Nigeria’s ex-President, Goodluck Jonathan, and Mali’s military coup leaders ended on Monday after three days of discussions without any decision on the make-up of a transitional government.

ECOWAS had deployed negotiators to Mali at the weekend in a bid to reverse President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s overthrow from power last week. But talks had focused on who would lead Mali and for how long, rather than the possibility of reinstating the president, diplomats said.

According to Reuters, the coup has raised the prospects of further political turmoil in Mali which, like other countries in the region, is facing an expanding threat from Islamist militants.

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A junta spokesman, Colonel Ismael Wague, said mediators would report to regional heads of state ahead of a summit on Mali this week but, highlighting the backing the soldiers enjoy, the final decision on the interim administration would be decided locally.

“Nothing has been decided. Everyone has given their point of view,” Wague told reporters.

“The final decision of the structure of the transition will be made by us Malians here.”

Jonathan, who led the regional mediation team, said they requested and were granted access to Keita.

“President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita told us that he has resigned. That he was not forced to do so. That he does not want to return to politics and that he wants a quick transition to allow the country to return to civilian rule,” Jonathan told reporters.

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Talks were taking place with the threat of regional sanctions hanging over the junta, known as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP).

“(Mediators) will discuss this with the heads of state so they can lift or at least ease the sanctions. Sanctions are not good for us or the population,” Wague said.

Meanwhile, Wague had denied reports by French radio RFI that the CNSP wanted a three-year transitional government led by a soldier and mostly made up of the military.

An African diplomat monitoring the talks said that ECOWAS was keen to push for a “short transition” with a focus on holding the elections and allowing an elected civilian administration to handle the reforms afterwards.

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