Mali’s military ruler Asimi Goita said Bamako was open to dialogue after the 15-member West African economic bloc ECOWAS imposed additional measures sanction On the Sahel nation in trouble due to postponed elections.
Military commander Goita seized power last May – for the second time in a year – under sanctions by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
“Even if we regret the illegal, illegal and inhumane nature of some of the decisions, Mali is open to dialogue with ECOWAS to reach a consensus,” Goita said on state television on Monday.
“People are concerned about the consequences of these measures, but I assure everyone that we are taking action to address this challenge.”
Mali’s military junta announces recall of its ambassador to ECOWAS countries and closure of its borders Response to the latest sanctions. It has pledged to take “all necessary measures to retaliate” for the measures, saying they will “affect populations already severely affected by the security and health crisis”.
West African bloc leaders agreed on Sunday to close borders with the Sahel state and impose a trade embargo after proposal The army-led government last month held power for five years before holding elections.
US Ambassador Richard Mills urged Bamako to “restore democracy in a timely manner” but took no position on the ECOWAS sanctions under review.
The group’s decision was backed by France, Mali’s former colonial power, at the UN Security Council West Africa meeting on Monday.
France’s ambassador to the United Nations, Nicolas de Riviere, said France “fully supports the efforts of ECOWAS”.
Airlines in France and Ivory Coast have cancelled flights to Mali. Air traffic from Senegal was also disrupted, according to a Reuters reporter trying to enter Mali.
Authorities in Guinea, where a similar military junta seized power last year and were also targeted by ECOWAS sanctions, announced they would keep their borders open to provide landlocked Mali with continued access to seaports.
Second round of sanctions
Relations between Mali and France, which has thousands of soldiers in the country, have soured since Goita took power in an August 2020 military coup that ousted elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
ECOWAS lifted earlier sanctions immediately following Keita’s dismissal, after Goita promised an 18-month transition to civilian rule culminating in presidential and legislative elections in February 2022.
But he staged a second coup in May 2021 that ousted the interim civilian government, disrupted the reform timeline and sparked widespread international condemnation.
The EU hopes new economic pressures, including cutting Mali from regional financial markets and trade in non-essential goods, will prompt Bamako to reconsider its latest proposal to delay presidential and legislative elections until December 2025 – longer than originally scheduled The time is nearly four years later. hold.
However, sanctions could further hamper the economy of one of the world’s poorest countries, where insurgency is rampant, in part because of widespread poverty.
Al Jazeera’s Nicholas Haque reported from Bamako that “panic and anger” was spreading in the Mali capital.
“Following the announcement of a slew of sanctions by the West African body ECOWAS, people rushed to bank gas stations and markets for supplies…” Harker said.
Activist Evelyne Zeinab Jacques told Al Jazeera that “Mali will not be able to withstand the latest sanctions.”
“We are a landlocked country dependent on our neighbours. We have no access to the sea and we need ports in Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire to get goods in our country. Economic sanctions are suicide for business owners,” she said.
Mali has struggled to quell an armed rebellion that began in 2012 and then spread to Burkina Faso and Niger. Large swathes of its vast territory are not under government control.
The military-led government argues that rampant insecurity means peaceful elections cannot be guaranteed for now.
“While we understand the complex situation in the country, we believe that all political, economic and social reforms aimed at reshaping Mali can only be led by elected authorities,” said Burkina Faso President Roch Kabore.
Despite the presence of UN peacekeepers, groups linked to ISIL and al-Qaeda have gained a foothold in central Mali.
“It is strange that these sanctions come at a time when the Malian army is making amazing progress in the fight against terrorism, something that has not happened in the past decade,” said government spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Megah.
Meanwhile, Russia has called for support for the military’s efforts to restore order in the country.
Moscow said it “understands the difficulties of organizing new elections” when a lack of security could undermine the outcome.
Western politicians have denounced what they say is Moscow’s growing influence in Mali, with some claiming the military regime has hired mercenaries from Russia’s controversial Wagner group.