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Mali: the head of the junta meets his ministers against a backdrop of uncertainties after the sanctions

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The head of the Malian junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, is chairing an extraordinary council of ministers on Monday, amid uncertainties about the effect of the sanctions imposed the day before by the West African neighbors. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed on Sunday a battery of retaliatory measures which have opened up for the country, in the grip of a serious security and political crisis for nine years, a new period of great uncertainty .

The head of the Malian junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, is chairing an extraordinary council of ministers on Monday, amid uncertainties about the effect of the sanctions imposed the day before by the West African neighbors. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed on Sunday a battery of retaliatory measures which have opened up for the country, in the grip of a serious security and political crisis for nine years, a new period of great uncertainty .

The junta has already expressed its anger

It harshly sanctioned the junta’s plan to continue ruling the country for several years and the breach of its promise to hold elections on February 27 bringing civilians back to power. Colonel Goïta, at the head of the country since a first coup in August 2020 and inducted as transitional president after a second in May 2021, has not publicly reacted to the decisions of the ECOWAS.

The opportunity is given to him to do so during a meeting of the Council of Ministers at 5:00 p.m. (local and GMT) in Bamako. On Monday morning, he had a long working session with the Prime Minister installed by the junta, Choguel Kokalla Maïga, a presidential official said on condition of anonymity.

The junta has already expressed its anger in a statement read on national television in the middle of the night by the government spokesperson in uniform. She denounced “illegal and illegitimate” sanctions, accusing ECOWAS of letting itself “be exploited by extra-regional powers”, an obvious reference to certain partners, foremost among which France, engaged militarily in the Sahel but with which relations are have been seriously degraded since 2020.

France supports ECOWAS

During a meeting of the UN Security Council, France gave its “full support to the efforts of the ECOWAS”, the Malian authorities, “once again”, having “not respected the demands of the ECOWAS and their own commitments “.

The United States said it was “deeply concerned about the lack of progress in Mali” and urged the Malian authorities “to return to democracy in due course”. Russia for its part called to support the “understandable efforts” of the junta “aimed at restoring order” and says it understands “the difficulties faced by the Malian authorities in preparing for the elections.

After the sanctions, the junta decided to recall its ambassadors in ECOWAS member states and to close the borders with these countries, largely symbolic reciprocity measures. She announced for the following hours “all the necessary measures to retaliate”.

Experts interviewed by AFP admit having no idea of ​​Colonel Goïta’s intentions. They wonder if, after having submitted proposals that are almost unacceptable to ECOWAS such as a five-year transition without elections, he will or will not be more conciliatory. They note that the harshness of your employee so far is a bad omen.

A trade embargo

In addition to closing borders and recalling ambassadors, ECOWAS suspended, with immediate effect, all commercial and financial transactions between member states and Mali, excluding consumer goods and basic necessities. It also froze Mali’s assets in the central banks of ECOWAS and in the commercial banks of member states and suspended all aid and financial transactions in favor of Mali from the organization’s financing institutions.

The measures began to be felt. The Ministry of Transport has assured “the flights of non-ECOWAS companies will continue to serve the airports of Mali”. But Air France announced that it could not provide service to Bamako “because of regional geopolitical tensions”.

The trade embargo may take longer to take effect. Concerns have been expressed on social media about the risks of inflation or shortages. In a poor and landlocked country, hit by violence of all kinds and the Covid-19, the embargo imposed after the first putsch in 2020 and lifted after a few weeks had been severely felt.

A “necessary” showdown

He is believed to have pushed the colonels to agree to hand over orders to elected civilians after 18 months, a commitment to which they returned. The junta itself has said that the sanctions will affect people. Daoulata Haïdara, from Bamako, deplores the standoff with ECOWAS: “we don’t know where this could lead our country”.

Experts warn against the danger for ECOWAS of rallying behind the junta a population in which resonates the discourse of national sovereignty. “If Mali is to be liberated, this showdown is necessary for the freedom of Mali,” said Daoulata Haïdara. For Lassana Camara, also from Bamako, “the ECOWAS is now a club. And this club goes against Africa, the West African population”.

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