ECOWAS goes the sanctions route against Guinea and Mali

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West Africa’s main regional bloc imposed sanctions against the junta in Guinea and those slowing Mali’s post-coup transition – its toughest response yet to a run of military takeovers.

The move was agreed at an emergency summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Accra to respond to last week’s putsch in Guinea and perceived slow progress to constitutional rule in Mali following a coup last year.  

Regional heads of state decided to freeze financial assets and impose travel bans on Guinea’s junta members and relatives, insisting on the release of President Alpha Conde and a short transition.

“In six months elections should be held,” ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou said at a briefing.

The bloc piled pressure on Mali’s transitional government, demanding they stick to an agreement to organise elections for February 2022 and present an electoral roadmap by next month, according to a post-summit communique.

Anyone in Mali hindering preparations for elections faces the same sanctions as those imposed in Guinea, it said.

Leaders at the summit hailed this hard-line stance. West and Central Africa has seen four coups since last year – political upheaval has intensified concerns about a slide back to military rule in a resource-rich but poverty-stricken region.

“I welcome the strong actions of the summit to safeguard democracy, peace, security and stability in the sub-region,” Senegalese President Macky Sall tweeted.

Coup leaders in Guinea held consultations this week with public figures, groups and business leaders in the country to map a framework for transition.

On Thursday they were expecting a delegation of regional heads of state to visit Conakry for talks on Friday.

Soldiers behind the September 5 coup said they ousted Conde because of concerns about poverty and corruption and because he was serving a third term after altering the constitution to permit it.

The putsch in Mali was largely precipitated by a security crisis, which saw militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State extend influence across the north and centre of the country.

The new Malian authorities’ pledge to hold presidential and legislative elections early next year is undermined by failure to meet deadlines, including starting voter roll updates and presentation of a new constitution.

The transition was dealt a further setback in May when the colonel who led the initial coup, Assimi Goita, ordered the arrest of the interim president and took over.