22 May 2012

West Africa: Ecowas Reiterates Stance On Mali, G/Bissau

Photo: Sidwaya
A Burkinabe minister mediates with Islamists in northern Mali.

West African Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense attending an Extra-ordinary Session of the Mediation and Security Council of ECOWAS in Abidjan, Cote d'Iviore, on 19 May, have again voiced strong condemnations for the coup plotters in Mali and Guinea Bissau, and announced a range of tighter sanctions on the CNRDRE in Mali and junta members in Guinea Bissau.

According to a Foreign Ministry release, the ECOWAS Ministers met in Abidjan for the singular purpose to discuss political and security developments in the two West African countries, and to decide and take actions, on behalf of ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, intended to stall any deterioration of the situations in Mali and Guinea Bissau, and bring an end to the two crises.

On the situation in Mali, the ECOWAS Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense directed the Malian junta to refrain from issuing any public utterances in the media or in elsewhere which imply they control the Malian state.

ECOWAS also warned the junta to desist from interfering or disrupting the transitional process, and to immediately withdraw from the democratic space and return to barrack. ECOWAS wants the junta to recognize the current transitional organs as the legitimate authority for the next 12 months.

ECOWAS Ministers have also demanded the immediately acceptance of its plans to deploy ECOWAS Standby Force in Mali, and to provide full cooperation whenever the force is deployed in Mali.

The Foreign Ministry release said the ECOWAS Ministers have also threatened to impose tougher sanctions on the junta and its collaborators, as well as on the country itself, if it fails to issue a written commitment to comply with measures agreed upon by them at the Abidjan meeting on Saturday, May 19.

Sanctions, when imposed, will range from political, diplomatic, economic and financial; and would include travel ban within the ECOWAS space, restrictions on the use of other member states' airspace and territorial waters, and the freezing of accounts and financial assets of Mali held in ECOWAS financial and economic institutions, including in the West African Bank for Development (BOAD) and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment (EBID).

Under diplomatic sanctions, Mali will be immediately suspended from the membership of ECOWAS, while all Member States agree to recall their accredited Ambassadors to the Republic of Mali. The ECOWAS Ministers also agreed to deny the junta the use of West African air and seaports, including a ban on Air Mali from landing in all ECOWAS Member States.

The suspension of the supply of petroleum products to Mali, denial of access to air and seaports in ECOWAS Nations and the suspension of Mali from participating in all sporting and cultural events in the ECOWAS space are among additional sanctions agreed by the Council. ECOWAS Member States will close all borders with Mali except for humanitarian purposes, should sanctions be instituted.

On the situation in Guinea Bissau, ECOWAS has demanded the immediate reestablishment of state organs and the setting up of an inclusive government which shall oversee the execution of a twelve (12) months transition.

The Council of Minister requested immediate financial support for the Interim government in Guinea Bissau to pay salaries, and called on troop-contributing Members States to accelerate their contributions in order to proceed with deployment, and secure the smooth exit of Angola MISSANG mission.

ECOWAS Ministers also reached the decision to initiate a range of political, diplomatic, economic and financial sanctions on parties of the crisis who would undermine the transition as forged by ECOWAS.

ECOWAS Council of Minister expressed happiness for the support it is receiving from the AU, the UN and other continental and international bodies, for ECOWAS' position on the crisis.

The Community will continue to proceed with negotiations with all parties in the crisis in Guinea Bissau, and expressed support for those negotiations being led by the regional and international Contact Groups on Guinea Bissau.

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