Mali: ECOWAS in quandary over next steps
By Tasie Theodore
The Economic Commission of West African States, ECOWAS is presently in a quandary over the next steps to take following the action by soldiers in Mali who had ousted President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta and compelled a winding down of his government on Tuesday.
While the soldiers have declared that they plan to set up a civilian transitional government and hold new elections thereafter, ECOWAS and the African Union have, in line with their statutory provisions debarring any unconstitutional takeover of government in any country in the sub-region and continent, already formally condemned their action and imposed sanctions on the country.
The statement from the ECOWAS Commission, declared that following the takeover of power, Mali will remain suspended from ECOWAS until the reinstatement of constitutional order.
The communication also demanded immediate implementation of sanctions against the military, partners and collaborators.
“ECOWAS requests the immediate activation of the ECOWAS Standby Force and the immediate implementation of sanctions against all putschists and their partners and collaborators.”
Going further, it has also agreed to “dispatch a high-level delegation to ensure immediate return to constitutional order; suspend Mali from all ECOWAS decision-making bodies with immediate effect, and close all land and air borders, as well as to stop all economical, trade and financial flows and transactions between ECOWAS Member States and Mali, and encourages all partners to do the same.”
However, given the widespread unpopularity of the Keita administration, it is indeed a tough situation for the intervening bodies as many in Mali do not want the administration again.
The thinking then among foreign policy buffs is that beyond the strong talk in public, ECOWAS and the AU may eventually be constrained to settle for a Sudan solution and put in place a Government of National Unity, involving soldiers and civilians as a transitional measure, even while also securing an exit date tor the transitional government and conduct of fresh democratic polls.
It will be recalled that the soldiers had said that they had acted to prevent the country falling further into chaos even as President Keïta in his resignation broadcast had said that he did not want “blood to be spilled to keep me in power”.
The UN Security Council promptly condemned the action and requested the immediate release of the president and his officials, while the troops should “return to their barracks without delay.”
On its part, the African Union (AU) voted to suspend Mali from its activities and called for the “restoration of constitutional order” and the release of the president and other government officials.
Mali, a large country that abuts the Sahara Desert is one of the poorest countries in the world and is currently also battling at the moment to contain a wave of jihadist attacks and ethnic violence.
In their defence, the soldiers, who are organised in a framework called the National Committee for the Salvation of the People, insist that they do not want to stay in power for much longer than is necessary.
“We are keen on the stability of the country, which will allow us to organise general elections to allow Mali to equip itself with strong institutions within the reasonable time limit,” the group’s spokesman, Col Ismaël Wagué, who is also the air force deputy chief of staff, explained.