West African leaders to discuss Mali crisis after coup d’etat | Military News

The ECOWAS meeting comes after months of heightened tensions over the timetable for restoring civilian rule in Mali after the military coup in 2020.

West African leaders are meeting to discuss Mali’s political crisis with the military government over presenting a new timeframe for the transition to civilian rule at the last minute after its first proposal was rejected.

The Extraordinary Summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc on Sunday in the Ghanaian capital Accra is expected to discuss imposing sanctions on the Sahel nation over the possible postponement of elections, among other issues.

The meeting comes after months of heightened tensions over the timetable for restoring civilian rule in Mali after the military coup in 2020.

In August of that year, army officers led by Colonel Asimi Gueta ousted elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta amid street protests against his unpopular rule.

Under the threat of sanctions, Gueta later promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022 after presidential and legislative elections.

But he launched a second de facto coup last May, forcing an interim civilian government. The move disrupted the reform timetable and was met with widespread diplomatic condemnation.

The Economic Community of West African States insisted that Mali hold elections in February.

But the government then said it would not set a date for the elections until after a nationwide conference was held – saying that a peaceful vote was more important than speed.

transparent elections

Vast swathes of Mali lie outside state control, as the government struggles to cope with an insurgency that has erupted since 2012.

On December 30, after the Mali reform conference ended, the government proposed a transition period of between six months and five years, beginning on January 1.

This would enable the authorities to “implement structural institutional reforms and [organise] Fair, transparent and credible elections.

But Mali’s foreign minister said ECOWAS mediator Goodluck Jonathan had asked the leadership to review that plan during a visit last week.

State financial television reported that the military government on Saturday submitted a new proposed timetable to the acting bloc’s head – without giving any details about its contents.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has led the push for financial support for its commitment to hold elections early this year.

February polls expected

The return to civilian rule has put the bloc’s credibility on the line as it seeks to uphold basic principles of governance and contain regional instability.

At a summit on December 12, its leaders reiterated their demand that elections be held by February 27, as initially scheduled.

They have maintained sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans within the ECOWAS region against 150 or so government military figures and their families and threatened further “economic and financial” measures.

The possibility of imposing new sanctions is expected to be on the agenda of Sunday’s summit.

The West African Economic and Monetary Union summit will immediately precede the ECOWAS talks in Accra, where its eight members will likely gather to lead coordinated action and impose new economic sanctions.

Sanctions have proven effective in the past.

For example, the bloc responded to the first Guetta coup by closing Mali’s borders, imposing trade restrictions, and shutting the country off its decision-making bodies.

The Malian army installed a civilian-led government in response and pledged to hold elections, leading to the lifting of economic sanctions, although Mali remained suspended from the bloc’s main bodies.

ECOWAS did not impose sanctions immediately after the second coup, but opted in November to take specific action against members of the military government due to perceived delays in its election preparations.

Analysts say regional leaders must take into account the risks of pitting Malians against ECOWAS.

A large proportion of the country’s political class boycotted the recent reform consultations, but the government’s narrative of strengthening national sovereignty resonates with some residents.

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