The African Union (AU) has backed calls by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) that the military junta in Mali appoint civilians to lead the country’s 18-months transition.
The military had overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita of Mali on August 18 in a bloodless coup, prompting sanctions from the 15-member regional bloc.
ECOWAS has insisted that the Colonel Assimi Goita-led National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) return Mali to civilian rule. The bloc also demanded that a civilian be named as head of the transition government.
The junta is yet to heed ECOWAS demand despite a deadline expiring on Tuesday. Instead, the junta, which had earlier proposed a two-year transition plan, released a charter reducing the transition period to 18 months.
Now the AU has urged the military junta in Mali to quickly appoint civilian leaders to manage an 18-month transition towards elections.
The AU Peace and Security Commissioner Smail Chergui called for a return to constitutional order.
The AU announced the day after the coup that it was suspending Mali “until restoration of constitutional order”, and it is unclear what additional leverage it has.
Mali’s military rulers met West African leaders this week but the soldiers who seized power appear reluctant to let a civilian lead the transition.
A spokesman for the junta, Colonel Ismael Wague, said after this week’s talks in Ghana that Mali could face a “total embargo” from ECOWAS if it does not quickly appoint civilian leaders.
The sanctions could bite in the poor country already facing a severe economic downturn as well as a simmering jihadist insurgency and chronic inter-ethnic violence.
Wague nevertheless made clear the junta would prefer the transition be run by the military, and claimed that was also the preference of the majority of Malians.