Mali Junta Moves to End Sanctions, as ECOWAS Plans to Tighten Noose

The military-dominated Interim Government in Mali has set up dialogue mechanisms towards ending the ECOWAS and EU-imposed sanctions and for the country’s early return to constitutional order.

In contrast, Chairman of the Authority of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo has called on the international community to support the ECOWAS measures imposed on Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso over military takeover of power in the three of its member States.

The regional bloc has suspended all three countries and imposed sanctions on Mali and Guinea, with the severest measures against Mali.

A Communique issued on Wednesday by the Col Assimi Goita-led Bamako government said a dialogue group it set up would work at ministerial level and under the transition monitoring Committee including representatives of ECOWAS, A.U. and U.N.

The statement said the initiative would lead to a review of the regime’s previous transition timetable, which was rejected by ECOWAS.

The E.U. has also imposed targeted sanctions on five senior members of the Bamako government including Prime Minister Choguel Maiga.

The ministerial and technical groups on Dialogue are to work with local and international bodies to agree a new “consensual timetable” for political transition in Mali, the statement added.

President Akufo-Addo told foreign diplomats in Ghana on Friday that the ECOWAS measures if implemented would help stem democratic slide in the region, which has seen three successful military coups and at least three attempted putsches in the last 18 months.

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Following the Goita-led coup of August 2020, which toppled the government elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, the regime had announced an 18-month transition programme, which would have ended with elections on 27th of this month.

But Goita led a second coup in May 2021 and his government then announced a delay of the handover date by three years to 2025, a move greeted with the stringent sanctions by ECOWAS followed by the EU.

Keita has since died from an undisclosed cause after several trips to the United Arab Emirates for medical treatment.

After the experience in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, there was also a failed coup attempt on 1st February in Guinea Bissau.

The resurgence of military incursions in politics and the attendant erosion of democracy in Africa have prompted calls on ECOWAS, AU and external partners to review their intervention strategies and rules of engagements.

Analysts have recommended that the interventions/negotiations involving the junta leaders, ECOWAS and other stakeholders should be structured, results-oriented and conducted with honesty, sincerity neutrality, flexibility and the interest of the long-suffering citizens of the affected countries at the centre of the conversations.

There is also the need for aggressive and proactive preventive diplomacy initiatives leveraging the tools of early warning mechanism and relevant normative frameworks, protocols and legal texts used by previous regional leaders that earned ECOWAS international acclaim in conflict management, resolution and prevention.

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More importantly, the triggers and drivers of military incursions must be tackled with renewed commitment and visionary leadership.

In his speech to the diplomats, President Akufo-Addo ignored some major threats to democracy in the ECOWAS region, such as the “constitutional and electoral coups” by some leaders, who change national constitutions for tenure elongation and the conduct of flawed elections in order to gain or retain power.

The pervasive human rights violations by governments are also not being addressed.

For instance, former Ghanaian President John Mahama has written an open letter to President Akufo-Addo alleging the “suppressing of rights and “criminalizing of speech of citizens and journalists” in Ghana.

The former president claimed that one investigative journalist had been murdered while some media houses had been shuttered and other journalists detained or harassed.

Bad governance, corruption, cronyism, exclusion, poverty, high youth unemployment and insecurity of life and property are among the other root causes of discontentment and agitations by the restive populations.

The discontentment often boils over into street protests that usually precede the military coups.

After more than three decades of democratic experiment military rule should belong to history in Africa but the failure of politicians to play by the rules and deliver good governance could make mass protests and violent change of governments inevitable.

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Meanwhile, external factors, especially the overbearing influence of France over its former African colonies cannot be ignored in addressing the insecurity and political instability rocking some African countries.

Anti-French sentiment is growing in these countries, particularly in Mali.

The Mali junta has in fact expelled the French Ambassador from Bamako after a senior French government official called the regime “illegitimate” and “going out of control.

At issue is the fact that the junta now prefers Russian military support to the French in the fight against terrorism.

French forces have been in Mali since 2013 but insecurity persists in the country and across the Sahel region.

To end the mutual mistrust and perennial frictions, Paris must review its presence and activities in its former African colonies to enable them to enjoy political and economic independence.

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