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West Africa bloc ECOWAS lifts post-coup sanctions against Mali

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The new interim president of Mali Bah Ndaw speaks as he attends the Inauguration ceremony in Bamako, Mali September 25, 2020.<br />REUTERS/AMADOU KEITA

The West African regional bloc ECOWAS announced Tuesday that it was ending sanctions imposed against Mali after a military coup in August, saying it wished to back the return to civilian rule.

In a statement, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said “heads of state and government have decided to lift sanctions” after noting positive steps towards a constitutional government.

It noted the publication of a roadmap for the transition period.

The 15-nation group imposed tough sanctions against one of Africa’s poorest countries after president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita was ousted following mass protests.

The coup was bloodless but triggered widespread alarm among Mali’s neighbours.

A coup in 2012 was followed by an uprising in northern Mali which morphed into a bloody Islamist insurgency, claiming thousands of lives and threatening neighbouring Niger and Burkina Faso.

The ECOWAS sanctions, imposed on August 20, included border closures and a ban on commercial trade and financial flows but not basic necessities, drugs, equipment to fight coronavirus, fuel or electricity.

Under pressure, Mali’s junta endorsed a “charter” to restore civilian rule within 18 months and appointed a committee which chose 70-year-old retired colonel Bah Ndaw as interim president.

Despite this, ECOWAS insisted on the publication of the transition roadmap and warned it could not accept junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita, who is interim vice president, as Ndaw’s potential replacement.

The bloc has now taken into account “notable advances towards constitutional normalisation,” according to a French text of Tuesday’s statement, signed by President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, who currently chairs ECOWAS.

It also called on “all bilateral and multilateral partners to support Mali.”

The communique also called for civilian and military officers detained during the coup to be released, and for the junta, which calls itself the National Council for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), to be dissolved.

The statement was issued a day after Ndaw appointed a government, headed by former foreign minister Moctar Ouane, in which junta members occupy key positions.

The “charter” also sets down the goals of re-establishing security across the nation, two-thirds of which are outside government control; of “restoring the state”; and of staging general elections.

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