Contrary to what Ecowas’ West African heads of state had decided after the 18 August 2020 coup against Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta (IBK), they did not want to resort to economic sanctions against Mali this time. At least not for the moment.
On 28 May, Mali’s Constitutional Court declared Colonel Assimi Goïta as president of the transition government, thus taking note of the new situation in Bamako and completing the putsch that began on 24 May by the head of the junta who had forced IBK to resign.
A summit then took place in Accra, Ghana on 30 May 2021, which was attended by Côte d’Ivoire’s President Alassane Ouattara, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari and Burkina Faso’s President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré. Goïta was also invited to this summit but did not participate in the closed-door discussions.
In their final joint statement, the heads of state “demand the immediate release of the former president and prime minister of the transition government, who have been under house arrest” ever since they were arrested on 24 May by Goïta’s men. They “condemn this recent coup d’état”, which is a “violation” of the transition charter and commitments made by the Malian authorities at the summit held on 15 September 2020 in Ghana.
Ecowas takes note
Ecowas, which condemns “all the actions that have led to persistent instability in Mali and its consequences in the region,” has therefore decided to “suspend Mali from all institutions attached to Ecowas.”
The regional organisation is also calling for the immediate appointment of a “new civilian prime minister” and the formation of a “new inclusive government” to carry out the transition government’s agenda. It has also stated that the 18-month transition period must be respected and that elections must be held no later than 27 February 2022 so that power can be handed over to civilians.
Ecowas also reiterated that the figures who had served as vice-president and prime minister of the transition government may not, “under any circumstances, run as candidates in the upcoming presidential election.”
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This organisation also called upon the international organisations (African Union, United Nations and European Union) to “continue to support Mali” in the implementation of its transition government.
Although the terms may seem firm, Ecowas has clearly decided to take the country’s state of affairs into account. The West African heads of state did not at any time mention Goïta by name in their final joint statement. By calling for the appointment of a new prime minister and government, they acknowledge the military’s role as leader of the transition government.
The debates were intense within Ecowas. Ouattara, who was particularly involved in the matter, was in favour of adopting a “hard” line against Goïta. But Mali’s former transitional President Bah N’Daw’s attitude displeased several West African heads of state, who reproach him for having insisted on removing two members of the former junta from the government: Colonels Sadio Camara (defence) and Modibo Koné (security). He did this despite Goïta’s opposition and attempts at mediation led, in particular, by Togo’s President Faure Gnassingbé.
For his part, President Emmanuel Macron warned that France may withdraw its military forces, which have been fighting jihadist groups in the country, in an interview with Journal du Dimanche on 30 May. “To Mali’s President Bah N’Daw, who was very rigorous in maintaining distance between the government and the jihadists, I said: ‘Radical Islamism in Mali with our soldiers on the spot? Never in a million years!’ Today, there is this temptation in Mali. But if it goes in that direction, I will withdraw,” he said.
Macron added that he had “passed on the message” to his West African counterparts that France “could not stay by the side of a country where there is no longer any democratic legitimacy or transition.”
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