West African leaders and Heads of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday lifted financial and trade sanctions imposed on Mali’s military regime,following series of coups in August 2020 and May 2021.
The bloc had gathered to assess efforts to secure timetables and other guarantees for restoring civilian rule in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
It accepted Mali’s date for a March 2024 return to civilian rule. Mali underwent coups between 2020 and 2021, followed by Guinea in September 2021 and Burkina Faso January 2022.
Fearing contagion in a region notorious for military takeovers, ECOWAS slammed tough trade penalties and economic sanctions against Mali, but lesser punishments against Guinea and Burkina Faso.
ECOWAS in January imposed a trade and financial embargo on Mali after its military government disclosed a five-year transition plan.
The sanctions have badly hit the landlocked Sahel nation, whose economy is already under severe strain from a decade-long extremist insurgency.
After months of diplomatic spats , the Malian authorities on Wednesday approved a plan to hold presidential elections in February 2024.
The vote will be preceded by a referendum on a revised constitution in March 2023 and legislative elections later in 2023.
The ECOWAS mediator in Mali, former Nigerian leader Goodluck Jonathan, visited the country last week, and expressed optimism over the enormous progress made thus far.
Mali’s top diplomat Abdoulaye Diop on Friday said the recent political developments were moving the country towards a lifting of the sanctions.
Burkina Faso which is also embroiled in insurgency and Guinea have so far only been suspended from the bodies of the 15-nation bloc but could face stiffer penalties.
Burkina Faso’s military government proposed a constitutional referendum in December 2024; legislative and presidential elections in February 2025.
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