West Africa’s main regional bloc, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), yesterday agreed to close borders with Mali.
It also imposed sweeping economic sanctions in response to “unacceptable” delays to hold elections after a 2020 military coup.
The decision followed a summit of leaders of to discuss a proposal from Mali’s transitional authorities to hold elections in December 2025 instead of next month as originally agreed.
This came as Vice President Yemi Osinbajo said yesterday there is a strong resolve by the ECOWAS and the international community not to accept coups d’etat or any other form of unconstitutional change of government in the region.
Osinbajo spoke with reporters in Accra after participating at an Extraordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government.
In a communique, ECOWAS said it found the proposed timetable for a transition totally unacceptable.
This timetable “simply means that an illegitimate military transition Government will take the Malian people hostage,” it said.
The 15-member bloc said it had agreed to impose additional sanctions with immediate effect, including the closure of members’ land and air borders with Mali, the suspension of non-essential financial transactions, and the freezing of Malian state assets in ECOWAS central and commercial banks.
There was no immediate response from the Malian authorities.
The extraordinary meeting, in which the Vice President Osinbajo represented President Muhammadu Buhari, was to discuss the political situation in the Republic of Mali.
Osinbajo said ECOWAS had not lost its bite as it was concerned about issues of good governance and democratic enterprise in the ECOWAS region.
He said this is the sanction against Guinea and of course, what is proposed against Mali.
“So, I think what is being done is unprecedented; in the years gone by, African Union, then known as Organisation of African Unity, never came down heavily on coup d’etat.
“But it is evident now; there is very strong resolve that the ECOWAS, and indeed the international community, will not accept unconstitutional takeovers of government in the form of coup d’etat and other such unconstitutional means of taking over governments.
“So, it is very evident that there is a very strong resolve which is why we are here today,’’ Osinbajo said.
He expressed optimism that the efforts being made to resolve the situation in Mali would yield a positive result.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo departed Abuja for Accra yesterday morning to represent President Buhari at the Extraordinary Summit.
In 2021, Prof. Osinbajo participated in meetings of leaders across the sub-region on the issues exploring solutions.
In compliance with the decisions of the leaders, ECOWAS mediator, former President Goodluck Jonathan travelled on January 5th, 2022 to Mali to meet with authorities in the country over the timetable for democratic transition. Indeed Dr. Jonathan briefed President Buhari on the matter recently.
Prof. Osinbajo was accompanied by the Minister of State Foreign Affairs, Ambassador Zubairu Dada.
The junta led by Col. Assimi Goita initially had agreed to hold a new election in late February, 18 months after it first seized power.
It wasn’t immediately known whether the West African leaders gathering in Ghana’s capital would further toughen existing sanctions against Mali’s coup leadership. The bloc already has put in place travel bans and a freeze on financial assets of all members of the transitional authority and their families.
In his remarks Sunday, Burkinabe President Roch Marc Christian Kabore said the proposed extension of the junta’s time in power “is of concern to the entire West African region”.