By Frank Amponsah
The Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) during an Extraordinary Session in Accra yesterday, have decided to uphold the initial sanctions already imposed on Mali and on the transition authorities.
The Session which was held under the chairmanship of H.E. Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, President of the Republic of Ghana and Chair of the ECOWAS Authority, was to review political developments in the Republic of Mali, in the context of the ongoing transition in the country since the last Summit held on 12th December 2021.
Taking into account the ongoing developments in the country, the Authority also decides to impose additional economic and financial sanctions, in conformity with its deliberations at the Sixtieth Ordinary Session held on 12th December 2021 in Abuja, Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The Authority has withdrawn all ECOWAS Ambassadors in Mali, close land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Mali, suspend all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS Member States and Mali, with the exception of essential consumer goods, pharmaceutical products, medical supplies and equipment, including materials for the control of COVID-19; petroleum products and electricity.
There is also a freeze of assets of the Republic of Mali in ECOWAS Central Banks, a freeze of assets of the Malian State and the State Enterprises and Parastatals in Commercial Banks, suspension of Mali from all financial assistance and transactions from all financial institutions.
The Authority has also instructed all Community Institutions to take steps to implement these sanctions which will be implemented with immediate effect.
The sanctions, according to the Heads of States will be gradually lifted only after an acceptable and monitored satisfactory progress is realized in the implementation of the chronogram for the elections.
“Those sanctions have been put in place to facilitate the process of a return to constitutional order in Mali necessary for peace, stability and growth. In addition, the sanctions have been designed to protect the populations,” the Communiqué indicated.
According to the Communiqué issues at the Session, due to the potentially destabilizing impact on Mali and on the region, which was created by this transition in Mali, the Authority decides to activate immediately the ECOWAS Standby Force, which will have to be ready for any eventuality, whilst calling on the African Union, the United Nations and other partners to support the process for the enforcement of these sanctions and continue to provide support for an acceptable political transition.
It said, “It invites the neighbouring countries of Mali, which are not members of ECOWAS to support the implementation of the sanctions. ECOWAS will field a mission to these neighbouring countries led by the Chairperson of Council.”
Meanwhile, despite the denial by the Malian Transition Government, the Authority remains deeply concerned by consistent report on deployment of private security agents in Mali with its potentially destabilizing impact on the West Africa Region.
According to the Authority this situation is closely related to the stalled political transition in the country.
Concerning the institutional reform, the Authority instructs the President of the Commission to take all necessary measures for the new statutory appointees to take office on 1st July 2022 at the end of the tenure of the current Management.
Addressing the opening Session, President Akufo-Addo, Chair of the Economic Community of West Africa State (ECOWAS), is hopeful that he and his colleagues will take appropriate decisions that will advance the future of Mali and the Community as a whole.
Narrating what has transpired since the last Ordinary Meeting of ECOWAS Heads of State held in Abuja, Nigeria, on 12th December 2021, President Akufo-Addo said he had “received a ministerial delegation from Mali led by the Malian Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, on 31st December 2021, which communicated to me the chorogram of the transition,” that ECOWAS had been requesting for several months.
“I was informed that the four-day National Foundation Reform Conference initiated by the transitional authority recommended that elections should be held within a period of six months to five years to restore democracy in the country.
“The official proposal submitted to me by the transitional authority under the hand of its head, indicated that the transition period should run for five years,” President Akufo-Addo said.
Further in his statement, President Akufo-Addo, announced that subsequent to the communication of 31st December 2021, by a letter to him dated 7th January 2022 (two days ago), the head of the Malian transition had stated that “the period had now been modified to four years”.
“Excellencies, it is this decision that we are meeting to review to determine whether it is in compliance to the agreement reached on 15 September 2020, and embodied in the transition charter, and more fundamentally, whether it conforms to the Community principles as enshrined in the ECOWAS supplementary protocol on democracy and good governance,” Akufo-Addo said.
“It is my expectation that we will take the appropriate decisions that will advance the future of Mali and our Community. National, regional and international stakeholders are all awaiting the results of our meeting.
“I will therefore hope that the outcomes of our deliberations will contribute to the promotion of democracy and consolidating peace and security in Mali and our region,” President Akufo-Addo added.
Under its plan, a constitutional referendum would be held in 2023 and legislative elections in 2025. A presidential election would not take place until 2026. The junta called its proposal “appropriate to conduct the political and institutional reforms.”
The army has been in control in Mali since August 2020. In that time, the army has carried out two coups and postponed elections that had previously been scheduled for next month that it had committed to holding.
A coalition of 10 parties said the plan is a violation of the transition charter and “has not been discussed in Mali and cannot in any way be the deep desire of the Malian people.”