West African Bloc ECOWAS Suspends Mali Over Twin Coups

MINUSMA peacekeepers on patrol in Niafounké in Mali.

West African leaders have said Mali must hold a presidential election in February 2022. They also called for the immediate appointment of a new civilian prime minister.

Leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), meeting in a regional summit Sunday, suspended Mali from the bloc's institutions after a second coup by the Malian military.

"The suspension from ECOWAS takes immediate effect until the deadline of the end of February 2022 when they are supposed to hand over to a democratically elected government," Ghana's Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey told reporters.

"One of the decisions of the heads of state is that they should ensure that in the next few days a civilian prime minister is put in place to form the next government," she added.

Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo hosted the talks in the Ghanaian capital Accra after Mali's constitutional court named Colonel Assimi Goita as the country's new president.

Goita -- who sparked outrage after detaining the country's transitional president and prime minister on Monday -- arrived in Accra on Saturday for preliminary talks.

Akufo-Addo kicked off the Sunday summit with the leaders from the region by stressing the community's "commitment to a peaceful transition" while also warning of the "grave consequences" the political turmoil could have.

What is the role of ECOWAS in Mali's transition?

Goita drew widespread criticism for his coup-within-a-coup that threatened to bring Mali's planned democratic transition to an end.

The colonel had assumed the chair of interim vice president after leading a coup in August last year that removed President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.

As interim vice president, he then forced interim President Bah Ndaw and interim Prime Minister Moctar Ouane to resign. Akufo-Addo said that this unconstitutional change of government was a violation of the transition agreement that had been brokered by ECOWAS.

The agreement stated that the interim vice president cannot succeed the interim president.

The junta's takeover has brought the promise to hold democratic elections in early 2022 into question.

How have foreign leaders responded?

ECOWAS had used sanctions to force the junta to initially agree to the civilian interim government.

"I reiterate, on behalf of ECOWAS, our continued commitment to the peaceful transition in Mali with the basic goal of restoring democratic government and stability in Mali and in our region," the Ghanaian president said on Sunday.

French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the coup in an interview published on Sunday, saying that he "could not stay by the side of a country where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or a transition".

He also warned that he would withdraw the 5,100 French troops from the country if it takes a turn towards Islamism.

French soldiers have been in the country since 2013 as part of an operation against Islamist militants.

A suspected jihadist terror attack on Sunday killed four civilians and a police officer in southern Mali.

This is an updated version of an earlier article.

(AFP, dpa)

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