West African leaders lift economic sanctions against Mali | political news

Leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) met to assess efforts to establish timetables for the restoration of civilian rule in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have lifted economic and financial sanctions against Mali after military rulers proposed a 24-month transition to democracy and published a new electoral law.

The bloc imposed severe sanctions on Mali in January after the military government said it would not hold democratic elections next month as initially planned.

ECOWAS committee chairman Jean Claude Kassi Brou told a news conference on Sunday that the sanctions will be lifted immediately. Borders with Mali are reopening and regional diplomats are returning to Bamako.

“However, the heads of state have decided to maintain individual sanctions and the suspension of Mali from ECOWAS until the return to constitutional rule,” said Kassi Brou.

The individual sanctions were directed against members of the ruling military government and the transitional council.

Sanctions have crippled the Malian economy and sparked humanitarian concerns amid widespread suffering. The country has defaulted on more than $300 million of its debt as a result of the sanctions, cutting it off from the regional financial market and the regional central bank.

The ECOWAS facilitator in Mali, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, paid a visit to the country last week. A member of his entourage told AFP news agency that Mali had made “huge progress”.

Mali’s top diplomat Abdoulaye Diop said on Friday that recent political developments are pushing the country to lift sanctions.

Transitions Burkina Faso and Guinea

ECOWAS leaders met to assess efforts to obtain timetables and other guarantees for the restoration of civilian rule in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

Mali suffered coups in August 2020 and May 2021, followed by Guinea in September 2021 and Burkina Faso in January.

West African leaders meeting in Accra also accepted a promise from the military that seized power in Burkina Faso to restore constitutional order within 24 months.

Kassi Brou said that after a lengthy discussion with leaders of the coup in Burkina Faso, a new 24-month transition was more acceptable after heads of state rejected a 36-month transition.

Economic and financial sanctions against Burkina Faso were also lifted, he said.

The situation seems more complicated in Guinea, where the military government has refused an ECOWAS mediator and announced a 36-month transition period – a period that African Union chairman and Senegalese President Macky Sall have described as “unthinkable”.

ECOWAS leaders rejected the three-year transition. They told Guinea’s military to propose a new timeline by the end of July or face economic sanctions.

The heads of state appointed Benin’s former president Boni Yayi as the new mediator and urged the Guinean military government to work with him and quickly propose a new timetable.

“In addition, economic sanctions will be imposed,” Kassi Brou said.

The political upheaval came when many observers began to think that military coups were a thing of the past in West Africa, an increasingly troubled region that also faces growing danger from armed groups.

Some leaders who spoke at the one-day Accra summit urged action as armed groups expand their footprint in the region.

“These terrorist attacks are now not only targeting the Sahel, but are extending to the coastal states of our region,” said Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo. “It is imperative that we continue to implement our regional action plan against terrorism and coordinate our various security initiatives.”

In the first half of 2022, the region recorded a total of 3,500 deaths from 1,600 attacks on countries such as Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria, according to Kassi Brou.

In Burkina Faso, where attacks attributed to armed groups are on the rise, gunmen killed at least 55 people last month in the northern province of Seno.

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