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Mali’s military-dominated government has defied international pressure to meet a February deadline for a return to civilian rule. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Mali’s military-dominated government has defied international pressure to meet a February deadline for a return to civilian rule. Picture: BLOOMBERG

Accra — West Africa’s main regional bloc on Sunday agreed to close borders with Mali and impose sweeping economic sanctions in response to “unacceptable” delays holding promised elections after a 2020 military coup.

The decision followed a summit of leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) to discuss a proposal from Mali’s transitional authorities to hold elections in December 2025 instead of February as originally agreed.

In a communique Ecowas said it found the proposed timetable for a transition totally unacceptable.

This timetable “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage”, it said.

The 15-member bloc said it had agreed to impose additional sanctions with immediate effect, including the closure of members’ land and air borders with Mali, the suspension of non-essential financial transactions, and the freezing of Malian state assets in Ecowas central and commercial banks.

The eight members of the West African monetary union also held a Mali-focused summit in Accra on Sunday ahead of the Ecowas meeting.

There was no immediate response from the Malian authorities, who have blamed the delay partly on the challenge of organising a democratically robust vote amid a violent Islamist insurgency.

Under previous sanctions, Mali’s Ecowas membership is suspended and members of the transitional authority and their relatives are subject to travel bans and asset freezes.

The new measures will be gradually lifted only after an acceptable election time frame is finalised and progress is made towards implementing it, Ecowas said.

The tougher response reflects the pressure the organisation is under to show it can protect democracy from a backslide to military rule after West and Central Africa saw four coups within 18 months.

Immediately after Malian president Boubacar Ibrahim Keita was ousted in 2020, Ecowas temporarily closed its borders with Mali and halted financial flows — short-term sanctions that caused a sharp fall in imports to the landlocked country.

Mali’s political upheaval has also deepened tensions with former colonial power France, which has thousands of soldiers deployed across West Africa’s Sahel region to battle Islamist insurgents. 

Reuters 

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