Mali: Colonel Assimi Goïta says he remains open to dialogue with ECOWAS after the sanctions

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Colonel Assimi Goïta, head of the Malian military junta, in Accra, Ghana, in September 2020.

The head of the Malian junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, said Monday, January 10, to remain open to dialogue with the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) while calling on his compatriots for calm and “Resilience” after the regional organization imposed sanctions on his country.

“Even if we regret the illegitimate, illegal and inhuman nature of certain decisions, Mali remains open to dialogue with ECOWAS to find a consensus between the superior interests of the Malian people and respect for the fundamental principles of the organization”, he said in a speech broadcast on public television.

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He did not announce any new response measure, but neither did he make any new proposal to get out of the political crisis. “I ask you to remain calm and serene because we have made the choice to be sincere in order to take our destiny in hand by forging our own path. ECOWAS and UEMOA have taken responsibility for themselves, we will do the same “, did he declare.

The ECOWAS imposed on Sunday a battery of retaliatory measures which open for Mali, in the grip of a serious security and political crisis for nine years, a new period of great uncertainty. It harshly sanctioned the junta’s plan to continue ruling the country for several years and the breach of its promise to hold elections on February 27 bringing civilians back to power.

“Illegal and illegitimate” sanctions

The ruling junta in Guinea, a country bordering Mali, has announced that “Guinea’s air, land and sea borders always remain open to all brother countries in accordance with its pan-Africanist will”.

In a statement read Monday evening on public television, the National Rally Committee for Development (CNRD, made up of soldiers) declares that Guinea, “In no way was associated with the decision of the fourth extraordinary summit of ECOWAS heads of state relating to the sanctions taken against Mali”.

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The junta had already expressed its anger in a statement read on national television in the middle of the night by the government spokesperson in uniform. She denounced sanctions “Illegal and illegitimate”, accusing the ECOWAS of letting itself “Instrumentalize by extra-regional powers”, an obvious reference to certain partners, foremost among them France, engaged militarily in the Sahel but with which relations have seriously deteriorated since 2020.

During a meeting of the UN Security Council, France brought its “Full support for the efforts of ECOWAS”, the Malian authorities, ” once again “, not having “Not respected the requirements of ECOWAS and their own commitments”.

First consequences

The United States said “Deeply concerned about the lack of progress in Mali” and urged the Malian authorities “To return to democracy in due course”. Russia for its part called for support “Understandable efforts” of the junte “Aimed at restoring order” and say understand “The difficulties encountered by the Malian authorities in preparing for the elections”.

After the sanctions, the junta decided to recall its ambassadors in ECOWAS member states and to close the borders with these countries, largely symbolic reciprocity measures.

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ECOWAS also suspended, with immediate effect, all commercial and financial transactions of member states with Mali, excluding consumer goods and basic necessities. It also froze Mali’s assets in the central banks of ECOWAS and in the commercial banks of member states and suspended all aid and financial transactions in favor of Mali from the organization’s financing institutions.

The measures began to be felt. The Ministry of Transport assured that “Airline flights no ECOWAS will continue to serve Mali’s airports ”. But Air France has announced that it cannot provide service to Bamako “Due to regional geopolitical tensions”. The trade embargo may take longer to take effect. Concerns have been expressed on social media about the risks of inflation or shortages.

In a poor and landlocked country, hit by violence of all kinds and the Covid-19, the embargo imposed after the first putsch in 2020 and lifted after a few weeks had been severely felt. He is believed to have pushed the colonels to agree to hand over orders to elected civilians after eighteen months, a commitment to which they returned.

Daoulata Haïdara, Bamako, deplores the standoff with ECOWAS: “We don’t know where this will lead our country. “ Experts warn against the danger for ECOWAS of rallying behind the junta a population in which resonates the discourse of national sovereignty.

“If Mali is to liberate itself, this showdown is necessary for the freedom of Mali”, underlines Daoulata Haïdara. For Lassana Camara, Bamako too, “ECOWAS is now a club. And this club goes against Africa, the West African population ”.

The World with AFP

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Mali: Colonel Assimi Goïta says he remains open to dialogue with ECOWAS after the sanctions