Mali: ECOWAS shows wisdom with coup leaders

ECOWAS heads of state, who met in Accra on Sunday to reflect on the case of Mali, have agreed on…

ECOWAS heads of state, who met in Accra on Sunday to reflect on the case of Mali, have agreed on limited sanctions against the perpetrators of the recent coup in Bamako.The soldiers who carried out the last coup in Mali can thank God. The outcome of the extraordinary summit of West African heads of state held Sunday in Accra, Ghana to examine the case of Mali was not frankly unfavorable to them. Apart from the temporary suspension of this country from the bodies of the organization, the requirement to appoint a new civilian Prime Minister and to respect the timetable for the transition initially agreed upon, the presidents of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), have chosen to handle Bamako carefully.

“After long discussions, the heads of state and government have decided to suspend Mali from the institutions of ECOWAS,” “call for the immediate appointment of a Prime Minister from the civil society” and demand the organization of presidential and legislative elections by February 27, 2022, a statement released after their Accra meeting said.

Contrary to the fears expressed by many Malian citizens, ECOWAS has refrained from closing its borders with Mali.

The new coup came last Monday when the military arrested transitional president Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane. The two men had “resigned” two days later in letters delivered to the ECOWAS mediator by the coup plotters themselves.

Colonel-Major Assimi Goita, the leader of the putschists, was then proclaimed president of the transition by the constitutional court, a decision the ECOWAS decided not to question at the end of the summit

Condemned by Mali’s partners, this new coup d’état, which comes nine months after the ousting, by the same group of officers, of former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita has been widely criticized by France, Mali’s former colonial power, which has deployed over 5,000 soldiers to fight jihadist groups in the north of the country. In an interview with the ‘Journal du Dimanche’ published a few hours before the ECOWAS summit, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that Paris “would no longer side with a country where there is neither democratic legitimacy nor transition.”

He also threatened the withdrawal of French troops from the country, should the regime in Bamako decide to go “in the direction” of radical Islamism. Such harsh remarks have been interpreted by some observers as a call for ECOWAS to take firm retaliatory measures against the putschists. If so, West African heads of state do not seem to have followed it, a choice certainly dictated by the concern not to worsen the situation in a country already in the throes of a deep political crisis and violence.

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