Mali strongman urges protests against ‘extreme’ sanctions
Mali strongman urges protests against ‘extreme’ sanctions
Mali strongman urges protests against 'extreme' sanctions

In a sharp escalation after months of diplomatic tensions, leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday agreed to shutter borders with the Sahel state and impose a trade embargo.

France, Mali’s former colonial power, and the United States backed the decisions, with French President Emmanuel Macron telling reporters on Tuesday: “We are in complete solidarity with the region and with this very courageous and clear stance” by ECOWAS.

Dmitry Polyansky, Russia’s deputy UN ambassador, said he “understood” the difficulties faced by Mali’s government.

The ECOWAS sanctions came after Mali’s interim government last month proposed staying in power for up to five years before staging elections — despite international demands that it respect a promise to hold elections on February 27.

As well as shutting borders and imposing a trade embargo, the bloc also agreed to halt financial aid to Mali and freeze its assets at the Central Bank of West African States.

Colonel Assimi Goita, the poor Sahel country’s strongman, late Monday called the measures “extreme” and urged Malians to stage protests against the sanctions on Friday.

Goita also called the sanctions “illegitimate, illegal and inhumane”, while adding that he remains open for dialogue with his West African neighbours.

The UN Security Council is due to discuss the situation in Mali on Tuesday.– Soured relations –

Mali’s relations with its neighbours and partners have steadily deteriorated since Goita led a coup in August 2020 to topple president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

Under threat of sanctions following that putsch, Goita had promised to hold presidential and legislative elections and to restore civilian rule by February 2022.

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