HASWhen no decision was taken against the Malian putschists by the leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting on 4 and 5 June in Accra, Ghana, the The ruling junta gave itself Monday until March 2024 before returning power to civilians, setting by decree at two years from March 26 the duration of the so-called transition period.
The head of the junta, Colonel Assimi Goïta, signed a decree to this effect read on state television and stipulating that “the duration of the transition is set at 24 months, (from) March 26, 2022”.
The junta maintains the duration of the transition at 24 months
On January 9, ECOWAS imposed severe commercial and financial retaliation measures on Mali to force the junta to present an “acceptable” timetable for the return of civilians to power. The colonels who took over by force in August 2020 the leadership of this country plunged since 2012 into a deep security, political and humanitarian crisis have withdrawn from their initial commitment to give way to civilians after elections scheduled last February. At the beginning of the year, they even planned to govern for up to five more years. Before the ECOWAS summit, while the sanctions accentuate the crisis in this poor and landlocked country, they had reduced their claims to 24 months, without formalizing them as they did on Monday June 6. So far ECOWAS has agreed to a maximum of 16 months.
A month to find compromises
Shortly before the summit on Saturday, the continuation of the dialogue between ECOWAS and the junta had raised some hope in Mali in the lifting of sanctions. Indeed, the ECOWAS sanctions also accentuate the economic and social crisis in this poor and landlocked country. They have an impact on the economies of its neighbors and the difficulties of the Malian population are echoed in West African opinions. West African leaders ultimately upheld them while keeping the door open to lifting them. Divided over what to do next, they deferred any decision to a new high on July 3. But they decided to “continue the dialogue in order to reach an agreement allowing a gradual lifting of the sanctions as the stages of the transition are completed”.
The effect of Monday’s decree on discussions with ECOWAS remains to be seen. In July, there will be 20 and a half months left until the set deadline of March 2024. Especially since Mali is far from being an isolated case. West Africa has seen a succession of coups by colonels and lieutenant-colonels in less than two years: putsch on August 18, 2020 in Bamako, new fait accompli completing the first on May 24, 2021, putsch on September 5 2021 in Conakry, putsch on January 24, 2022 in Ouagadougou.
Since 2020, ECOWAS, alarmed at the risk of contagion, has multiplied summits, mediations and pressure to accelerate the return of civilians to the leadership of these countries. In Burkina, another Sahelian country caught in the jihadist turmoil, and in Guinea, the new authorities have announced periods of three years before giving way. The new rulers in uniform invoke the seriousness of the crises they face, security in Mali and Burkina, social and political in the three countries. They want to have the time necessary for what they present as their enterprise of “refoundation”, and for the organization of credible elections.