How the military junta lifted ECOWAS economic sanctions

A Malian supporter holds a Malian military junta before the 2021 African Cup of Nations (CAN) 2021 football match between Mali and Equatorial Guinea on 26 January 2022 at the Omnisport Stadium in Limbe on January 26, 2022 Portrait of leader Colonel Asimi Goita

Mali’s military junta stokes nationalist sentiment as it successfully pushes West African leaders to end the economic blockade imposed on the country after a coup, regional analyst Paul Melli wrote.

In return for setting a deadline for elections in February 2024, the Malian regime has secured an end to sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

For ordinary Malians who consume more imported goods, especially urban residents in the capital Bamako, the lifting of sanctions is undoubtedly good news.

While these measures are not designed to curb the supply of basic necessities, they are, in fact, an additional strain on traders and households already grappling with a surge in world food and fuel as global demand recovers The price went up, then the Russian attack on Ukraine.

The sanctions were imposed in January after the military junta, which seized power last year, announced a four-year delay in the transition to elected civilian rule. It has now shortened the transition period to less than two years, with elections due to begin in February 2024.

This was embraced by ECOWAS leaders at their summit in Accra, Ghana’s capital, over the weekend.

“Bullying Neighbors”

This is a major success for the Malian regime, but also a huge relief for ECOWAS, which is increasingly seen by many Malians and many others in the region as an excess Weaned presidents’ clubs who take a hard line on the military and coup d’etat ignore their mistakes.

Mali’s military leader and Prime Minister Jogul Maiga has deftly exploited these common perceptions to present themselves as defenders of the people against the bullying of their neighbors, unaware that they are corrupt and complacency in a traditional elite Corrupted nations need radical change.

In the past six months, every hardline message from ECOWAS or Europe and the United Nations has been met with a defiant nationalist response from Bamako.

In mid-May, the regime announced that Mali would withdraw from the G5 Sahel group, established in 2014 to coordinate the Sahel army’s joint efforts to fight the jihadist group.

A displaced family finds shelter in a yard in Sevarre after fleeing the village of Guerri in central Mali on February 27, 2020

Thousands flee their homes in Mali due to jihadist violence

Despite allegations by Human Rights Watch and others of widespread mistreatment of civilians, the regime has cooperated with Russian security contractor Wagner.

The breakdown in relations between the two countries has led France and other European countries to announce the withdrawal of the troops they have deployed to fight the jihadist group, a process that will be completed next month when the last contingent of French Balkan forces leaves.

At the same time, the Bamako regime has imposed increasingly stricter restrictions on the operations of what its acronym Minusma calls UN peacekeepers, refusing its investigators to investigate reported crimes locally, such as the army and Wagner allegedly About 300 people were killed in the village of Moura in late March.

However, even as Mali became more provocative, it gradually tightened its political agenda in a direction that ECOWAS might accept.

a series of coups

West African leaders were initially prepared to show some flexibility. Their Mali crisis envoy, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, continued his shuttle diplomatic visit to Bamako.

Ecowas, however, believes it must hold out against the wave of military coups accelerating in the region, which until recently prided itself on being dominated by a truly multiparty elected government.

Following the August 2020 coup in Mali, there was a second coup last May. Then in Guinea in September, Colonel Mamadi Dumbuya overthrew an increasingly authoritarian president, Alpha Conte.

Colonel Mamady Doumbouya (C), Chairman of the National Council for Rally and Development (CNRD), met with senior representatives of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Conakry on 17 September 2021.

Colonel Mamady Doumbouya (C) is a former French veteran

And in Burkina Faso in January this year military officers ousted President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré – who had been elected to a second term in a genuinely democratic contest only 14 months earlier – amid anger at his failure to curb the spread of jihadist violence.

Then there was a seemingly failed coup attempt in Guinea-Bissau in February. Soldiers loyal to President Umaro Sissoko Umbalo successfully repelled soldiers who attacked government headquarters, killing 11.

And there is speculation that other countries in the region may also see a military takeover. So Ecowas definitely needs to deter would-be coups.

At the same time, however, its leaders are desperate to find a way to bring Mali, as well as Guinea and Burkina Faso, back to a club of nations run by elected civilians, with proper constitutional rules.

This is important not only for West African democracy, but also because Mali is at the heart of the Sahel crisis and the struggle to contain the spread of radical violence and inter-communal tensions.

Regional cooperation to address other pressures such as food insecurity and climate change is only hampered by the country’s deepening isolation.

retreat from confrontation

Step by step, the Bamako regime took steps that helped to appease ECOWAS leaders – through a new electoral law and arrangements for the electoral authorities, as well as a detailed road map for the transition and, most importantly, a definitive timetable. The deadline for the first round of presidential elections is February 2024.

There still appears to be uncertainty over whether the new arrangement will deprive junta leader Assimi Goïta of his right to contest that election.

But ECOWAS appears to have decided to “deliver” on what it can deliver at this stage and to continue its dialogue with the Malian leadership on the remaining details.

Malian soldiers are celebrated as they arrive at Independence Square in Bamako, August 18, 2020

Many Malians welcome military rule, hope it will end jihadist violence

West African leaders concluded that this was enough to justify the lifting of sanctions. For them, there is an even bigger advantage.

The compromise agreement opens a path to a gradual retreat from the destructive confrontation with the defensive nationalist Bamako regime and a gradual return to normal cooperation between Mali and its neighbours – in the region’s efforts to deal with the Sahel In times of crisis, this is sorely needed.

Likewise, ECOWAS has also managed to reach an agreement with Burkina Faso’s military junta on a timetable for restoring democracy and returning to civilian rule in July 2024.

ECOWAS hopes that these precedents will encourage the Guinean military regime to follow suit. It chose former Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi as a mediator in an attempt to negotiate a deal with the Conakry regime.

Paul Melly is a consultant for the Africa Program at Chatham House, London.

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