Mali Isolated as Neighbours Cancel Flights, Close Land Borders

Former colonial ruler France and neighbouring states cancelled flights to Mali on Monday, helping isolate a military junta under regional sanctions for seeking to extend its hold on power.

In response to the interim authorities’ failure to hold democratic elections as planned after the coup in 2020, ECOWAS on Sunday imposed a raft of economic sanctions on Mali, including the suspension of financial transactions.

Additionally, the neighbours have pledged to close their roads and airspace. The national carrier of Ivory Coast, Air Cote d’Ivoire, cancelled flights to Bamako, Mali, on Monday. Flights from Senegal were also reportedly disrupted.

As a result of security risks, Air France also cancelled flights, according to an airline spokesperson. In a statement, Mali’s airports chief Lassina Togola said Air France flights in Mali were cancelled on Monday but were not suspended indefinitely.

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The latest sanctions have been branded illegal and illegitimate by Mali’s military leaders. 

“The Malian government calls on the public to show calmness and restraint,” it said in a statement in the early hours of Monday.

ECOWAS’ stance on Mali is its toughest since it implemented similar measures right after President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita was ousted. These sanctions, which led to a sharp decline in imports into the landlocked country, were lifted after the authorities promised an 18-month transition to civilian rule.

In an effort to push Bamako to reconsider the latest proposal to delay presidential and legislative elections to December 2025 – nearly four years after they were supposed to take place – the bloc hopes to apply renewed economic pressure, including cutting Mali off from regional financial markets and non-essential trade.

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It is expected that sanctions will further hamper the economy in one of the poorest countries in the world, where a largely financed Islamist insurgency rages.

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