West Africa considers sanctions

Lifting, enforcing or tightening sanctions? West African leaders will meet in Accra on Sunday to review their plan of action against the juntas that have come to power by force in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.

In particular, the leaders of the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) must take a decision on Mali, which has suffered severe commercial and financial retaliation since 9 January and which has recently accepted the necessary conditions to to lift.

Burkina, another Sahelian country caught up in the jihadist turmoil, and Guinea are currently only suspended from ECOWAS bodies. But the current juntas plan to stay there for three years and expose their country to tougher sanctions.

For two years, West Africa has seen a succession of coups by colonels and lieutenant colonels: putsch on August 18, 2020 in Bamako, new fait accomplis completing the first on May 24, 2021, putsch on September 5, 2021 in Conakry, putsch on 24 January 2022 in Ouagadougou.

ECOWAS, alarmed by the risk of contagion in a vulnerable region, is conducting summits, mediations and pressures to accelerate the return of civilians to the leadership of these countries.

The last summit to date, June 4, had given birth to a mouse: no decision had been made yet and ECOWAS had given itself another month to negotiate.

– “Progress” –

The decision to lift the embargo on commercial and financial transactions is eagerly awaited in Mali, exhausted by ten years of conflict, and where negotiations between the junta and ECOWAS have been going on for months.

Mediator Goodluck Jonathan, former president of Nigeria, came to Bamako last week. If nothing official has filtered the exchanges, a member of his entourage told AFP that “Mali has made tremendous progress”.

The authorities on Wednesday announced an election calendar that will set the presidential elections in February 2024, the constitutional referendum in March 2023 and the parliamentary elections between October and November 2023.

It completes the adoption on June 17 of a new electoral law and the establishment of a committee responsible for drafting the new constitution.

A potential blockade in the negotiations may nevertheless remain if the door is now open, through the new electoral law, to a soldier’s candidacy in a presidential election.

The “actions taken today are moving towards the lifting of these sanctions,” said the head of Malian diplomacy Abdoulaye Diop on Friday evening.

Guinea conducted an intense diplomatic campaign this week to appease West African leaders and avoid further sanctions.

The junta had angered its neighbors by introducing a transition period of 36 months. A delay described as “unthinkable” by Senegalese head of state Macky Sall, the current president of the African Union.

“ECOWAS will have to take action,” he said.

– Dialog box –

Transitional Prime Minister Mohamed Béavogui received the United Nations Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, on Saturday.

Guinea’s message is to reassure “the brothers of ECOWAS” about the country’s commitment to lead a peaceful and inclusive transition, the government stressed.

On Monday, the government also received key political parties to enter into dialogue. Several political movements have made their participation conditional on the appointment of a West African mediator.

“It seems to us fundamental that ECOWAS intervene to preside over the dialogue and thus promote the return to constitutional order in Guinea,” the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC) said on Friday.

In Burkina Faso, ECOWAS has appointed a mediator, former Nigerien President Mahamadou Issoufou, despite his “concerns” about the 36 months planned for the transition. “We are on track to compromise” with this country, a diplomat from the sub-region told AFP.

Visiting Ouagadougou on Saturday, Mr Issoufou praised the military’s “openness to dialogue” and said he discussed “the chronogram (calendar) of transition” presented to political leaders on Wednesday.

The authorities of Burkinabè are planning the dates of December 24, 2024 for a constitutional referendum and February 25, 2025 for the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections.

On Friday, the parties of the former majority of overthrown President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré denounced the junta’s agenda as a “lone move that contrasts with the requirements of an inclusive and successful transition”, deploring “the absence of consultations upstream”.

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