Mali transition

Ecowas suspends Mali after second coup, but no new sanctions

Nigerian former President Goodluck Jonathan attends the ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit on the situation in Mali in Accra on May 30, 2021.
Nigerian former President Goodluck Jonathan attends the ECOWAS Extraordinary Summit on the situation in Mali in Accra on May 30, 2021. AFP - NIPAH DENNIS

West African leaders have suspended Mali from the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) in response to last week's military coup, the second in nine months. Ecowas said authorities must stick to a timetable for a return to democracy, but stopped short of imposing fresh sanctions.

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Ten regional heads of state and three foreign ministers attended the emergency summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra on Sunday, with former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan serving as mediator in the latest crisis after the Malian military ousted its president and prime minister for the second time in nine months. 

Mali's neighbours and international powers fear the latest revolt will jeopardise a commitment to hold a presidential election next February, and undermine a regional fight against Islamist militants.

"The suspension from Ecowas takes immediate effect until the deadline of the end of February 2022 when they are supposed to hand over to a democratically elected government," Ghana's Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said after the meeting.

However it did not announce sanctions like those it imposed after the coup last August, which saw members temporarily close their borders with landlocked Mali and halt financial transactions. The sanctions hit the country hard.

It also did not call for new interim President Assimi Goita to step down. The army colonel, who led the August coup and last week's revolt, was declared president on Friday.

Instead, Ecowas said a new civilian prime minister should be nominated and a new inclusive government formed to proceed with the transition programme.

"The date of 27th February 2022 already announced for the presidential election should be absolutely maintained," the leaders' communique said.

There was no immediate response from Goita, who attended the summit.

Politicians across the political spectrum welcomed the decision not to impose sanctions. "These decisions will not adversely affect poor citizens who could have suffered the consequences of acts they did not commit," Hamidou Doumbia, secretary of the Yéléma party told RFI.

Five dead in fresh attack 

French President Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper published Sunday that Paris "could not stay by the side of a country where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or a transition".

And he warned that France would pull its troops out of Mali if the country lurches towards radical Islamism under Goita's leadership.

France has around 5,100 troops in the region under its anti-jihadist operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel - Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Also Sunday, underscoring Mali's instability, suspected jihadists killed four civilians and a police officer in southern Mali, a region that has previously been mostly spared from the country's Islamist unrest, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

The unidentified men attacked a checkpoint near the town of Bougouni, around 100 kilometres from Mali's borders with Cote d'Ivoire and Guinea, before dawn, the official said. A local lawmaker confirmed the attack.

(with newswires)

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