Mali’s transitional authorities recall ambassadors to neighboring states, announcing border closure amid growing tensions.
Mali’s military-dominated government “strongly” condemns “illegal” sanctions imposed on the land by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), adding that it had closed its land borders “with the states concerned”.
On Sunday, ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) imposed a series of economic and diplomatic sanctions in response to Malian military leaders’ desire to push elections back to 2025.
Military spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said in a televised statement on Monday that “the government of Mali strongly condemns these illegal and unlawful sanctions”.
“On the basis of reciprocity, Mali has decided to recall its ambassadors and close its land and air borders with the states concerned,” he added.
The meeting in Ghana of regional leaders followed months of escalating tensions over the timetable for the restoration of civilian rule in Mali following two coups and a military takeover.
In August 2020, army officers, led by Colonel Assimi Goita, overthrew the elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita amid street protests against his unpopular rule.
Under threat of sanctions, Goita subsequently promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022 after holding presidential and legislative elections.
But he carried out a de facto second coup last May, forcing an interim civilian government. The move disrupted the reform roster and was greeted with widespread diplomatic condemnation.
‘Illegal Transitional Military Government’
ECOWAS has insisted that Mali hold elections in February. But the government then said it would only set an election date after a nationwide conference was held – arguing that a peaceful vote was more important than speed.
The government has suggested that a transition could take anywhere between six and five years.
ECOWAS said on Sunday it found the proposed timetable for a transition completely unacceptable.
This roster “simply means that an illegal military transitional 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.
Regional Monetary Union UEMOA has instructed all financial institutions under its umbrella to suspend Mali with immediate effect, disrupting the country’s access to local financial markets.
In his statement on Monday, Bamako accused ECOWAS and UEMOA of being “exploited by outside forces with ulterior motives”, an apparent reference to Mali’s partners who were militarily involved in the Sahel, such as France.
Mali’s transitional government said it “deplored the inhuman nature of these measures affecting populations already severely affected by the security crisis and the health crisis”.
Faced with the West African embargo, the government said it had made arrangements to ensure normal supplies “by all appropriate means” and called on the population to remain calm.