ECOWAS meeting comes after months of increasing tensions over the timetable for restoring civilian rule in Mali after a military takeover in 2020.
Mali transitional President Colonel Assimi Goita during his swearing-in ceremony
Transitional President Assimi Goita promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022 after holding presidential and legislative elections [File: EPA]
Published On 9 Jan 20229 Jan 2022
West African leaders are gathering to discuss Mali’s political crisis with the military government about submitting a new timeframe for a transition back to civilian rule at the last minute after its first proposal was rejected.
The extraordinary summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) bloc on Sunday in Ghana’s capital Accra is expected to discuss possible sanctions on the Sahel state over potentially delayed elections, among other issues.
The meeting comes after months of increasing tensions over the timetable for restoring civilian rule in Mali after a military takeover in 2020.
In August that year, army officers led by Colonel Assimi Goita toppled the elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita amid street protests against his unpopular rule.
Under threat of sanctions, Goita subsequently promised to restore civilian rule in February 2022 after holding presidential and legislative elections.
But he staged a de facto second coup last May, forcing out an interim civilian government. The move disrupted the reform timetable and was met with widespread diplomatic condemnation.
ECOWAS insisted that Mali hold elections in February.
But the government then said it would only set an election date after holding a nationwide conference – arguing a peaceful vote was more important than speed.
Swathes of Mali lie outside of state control, with the government struggling to a rebellion that has raged since 2012.
On December 30, after Mali’s reform conference ended, the government suggested a transition period of between six months and five years, starting from January 1.
This would enable the authorities to “carry out structural institutional reforms and [organise] credible, fair and transparent elections”, it said.
But ECOWAS mediator Goodluck Jonathan asked the leadership to revise that plan during a visit last week, Mali’s foreign minister said.