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West African leaders to discuss Mali crisis on Sunday

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(FILES) In this file photo taken on September 22, 2020 Colonel Assimi Goita (C), President of CNSP (National Committee for the Salvation of People) addresses to the press during the ceremony of the 60th anniversary of Mali’s independence in Bamako, one day after announcing that the transitional presidency would be assigned to a retired colonel, Bah Ndaw, 70 years, ephemeral Minister of Defence in 2014. – Malian officers upset with a government reshuffle have detained the president and prime minister at an army camp outside the capital, triggering broad international condemnation and demands for their immediate release. President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane lead an interim government that was installed under the threat of regional sanctions following a putsch in August, and the detentions on May 24, 2021 raised fears of a second coup. Briefly reached by phone before the line cut, Prime Minister Ouane told AFP that soldiers affiliated with interim Vice President Colonel Assimi Goita “came to get him”. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

West African leaders will meet on Sunday to frame a response to the crisis in Mali, where the military have reasserted control just nine months after a coup, diplomats told AFP Friday.

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The extraordinary summit in Ghana will gather heads of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has led efforts to defuse the crisis, they said.

The bloc has warned of reimposing sanctions against fellow member Mali after the military earlier this week detained the leaders of an interim government tasked with steering the return to civilian rule following a coup last August.

The transitional president, Bah Ndaw, and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane stepped down after they were held and have since been released.

Military strongman Assimi Goita, who had been named vice president, told mediators who flew to Bamako this week that he intends to head the transitional government himself and name a prime minister, diplomats say.

The 15-nation ECOWAS has been assertive in several of the recent crises in West Africa.

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It imposed sanctions against Mali after young officers forced out the country’s elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, following mass protests against him.

The bloc suspended Mali from its decision-making bodies, closed its borders and stopped financial and trade exchanges except for essential products such as fuel and electricity.

The measures were lifted after the interim government was formed with a civilian president and prime minister, and the military promised to restore full civilian rule within 18 months.

One of the poorest countries in the world, Mali is battling a jihadist insurgency that began in the north 2012, later spread to the volatile centre and then into neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

Thousands of people have died, and hundreds of thousands have fled their homes.

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