West Africa: Ecowas - West African Bloc Lifts Mali Economic Sanctions

International troops supporting U.S. Army Africa’s Western Accord 16 raise their flags during the exercise’s Opening Day Ceremony on May 2, 2016 at Camp Zagre, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. The ECOWAS flag is at the centre of the photo.

Leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday lifted economic and financial sanctions imposed on Mali, after its military rulers agreed to return to civilian rule by March 2024 and published a new electoral law.

ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou told a news conference that the sanctions will be lifted immediately. Borders with Mali will reopen and regional diplomats will return to Bamako.

"However, the heads of state decided to maintain individual sanctions, and the suspension of Mali from ECOWAS, until the return to constitutional rule," Kassi Brou said.

The individual sanctions targeted members of the ruling junta and the transitional council.

Sanctions hit Mali hard

The sanctions have badly hit the country, whose economy is already under severe strain from a decade-long jihadist insurgency.

Mali, which underwent coups in August 2020 and May 2021, has defaulted on over $300 million (€287 million) of its debt due to the sanctions.

The sanctions also cut the conflict-ravaged nation off from the regional financial market and the regional central bank.

After months of talks, Malian authorities on Wednesday approved a plan to hold presidential elections in February 2024.

The vote will be preceded by a referendum on a revised constitution in March 2023 and legislative elections in late 2023.

What's the decision on Guinea and Burkina Faso?

ECOWAS leaders, who met in Ghana on Sunday, also assessed the political situation in Guinea and Burkina Faso, where military coups took place in September 2021 and January this year, respectively.

Kassi Brou said the leaders accepted a pledge from the junta, that seized power in Burkina Faso in January, to restore constitutional order within 24 months.

Economic and financial sanctions on Burkina Faso were also lifted, he said.

But ECOWAS rejected a three-year transition proposed by coup leaders who seized power in Guinea in September. The leaders called on Guinea's junta to propose a new timeline by the end of July or face economic sanctions.

(AFP, Reuters)

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