Mali - ECOWAS - Crisis

Will ECOWAS lift Mali embargo before July?

APA-Bamako (Mali)

The Malian authorities have decided to extend the duration of the transition by 24 months, a unilateral decision that ECOWAS views as regretful.

On Saturday 4 June in Accra, heads of state of the sub-regional organisation did not reach an agreement on the Malian issue. 

After marathon talks, no consensus was reached on lifting the embargo, which is hurting Bamako as much as neighbouring countries such as Senegal. 

The status quo is being maintained pending the next ECOWAS extraordinary summit slated for July 3 in the Ghanaian capital.

But since June 4, things are on the move on both sides, giving hope to some stakeholders that ECOWAS could reconsider its position. 

Last Monday, two days after the Accra summit, Colonel Assimi Goita signed a decree in which he set the duration of the Malian transition “at 24 months, (from) 26 March 2022.” 

This is a step forward in the political crisis because, at the beginning of the year, the Malian military planned to rule the country for up to five years. 

In reaction, ECOWAS adopted on January 9 very tough sanctions against Bamako, such as the closure of borders and the freezing of financial assets within ECOWAS.

Despite this step forward, ECOWAS does not applaud the Malian authorities. 

In a statement issued Tuesday evening, it said it had “taken note” of the decree setting the new transition timetable.

 However, “it regrets that this decision was taken at a time when negotiations are still taking place to reach a consensus.”

Will Malian sheep cross borders?

For the sub-regional organisation, its ECOWAS mediator for Mali, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, “will continue to discuss with the Malian authorities, with a view to reaching a mutually acceptable timetable for the transition, which will ensure ECOWAS support.” 

Thus, it clearly shows its disapproval of the new timetable presented by the Malian junta.

At the time of the Accra summit, some leaders in the region were still arguing for a transition of 16 to 18 months, starting in March 2022. 

In addition, the mediator Goodluck Jonathan continues to bring positions closer together by meeting with key players, including heads of state of member countries of the bloc as well as the Malian authorities. 

With the current president of ECOWAS, Ghanaian Nana Akufo-Addo and Senegalese President Macky Sall, their visit was announced in Bamako after the last summit in Accra. 

Are they still on schedule?

In any case, Goodluck Jonathan has proposed several solutions to end the crisis, such as a transition lasting around 24 months. 

Therefore, the text deserved to be refined. 

But the “cavalier” way Bamako announced the duration of the transition irritated several heads of state, according to a source quoted by RFI. 

What will ECOWAS decide after “regretting” the unilateral decision of the Malian authorities? 

Will it announce a partial lifting of the sanctions that prevent Malian farmers, for example, from transporting their sheep to Senegal in the run-up to Tabaski, the Eid el Kebir festival that will be celebrated in a month?

Macky Sall’s country relies heavily on sheep from neighbouring Mali, which are sometimes more accessible, to supply its market normally. 

Recently, after an inspection visit, the Senegalese Ministry of Livestock and Animal Production tried to reassure Senegalese even though many of them remain worried.

Intransigence

On the other hand, Professor Abdoulaye Sounaye, a Nigerien specialist in Sahelian and West African issues, noted that ECOWAS will not decide on a partial or definitive lifting of sanctions on Mali before July 3, the date of the next extraordinary summit of its conference of heads of state and government. 

“I think ECOWAS will wait until the summit. It has already decided on a mission that its president will lead. I believe that the conference of heads of state does not have much confidence in the authorities of the transition in Mali,” the teacher-researcher at Abdou Moumouni University in Niamey told APA.

Moreover, said the researcher affiliated with the Leibniz Zentrum-Moderner Orient in Berlin, the task is very difficult at the moment for the leaders of this organization. 

They want to get out of this situation without losing face, especially by managing to discourage possible armed takeovers that have become recurrent in the region.

“In any case, it is clear that ECOWAS is looking for a way out of the crisis to restore its image in the same way that the Malian authorities are looking for a way out to at least have access to some financial resources. In fact, the sanctions have become a real conundrum for both parties,” Professor Sounaye said.


ODL/te/cgd/lb/as/APA

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