ECOWAS Hope For Mali Civilian Transition ‘In Days’

 

West African leaders said they hope to see a civilian-led transition government installed in Mali “in days” after holding talks on Tuesday with the military junta that seized power in the fragile state last month.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) slapped sanctions on Mali after the putsch, including closing borders and a ban on trade and financial flows, and has called for elections within 12 months.

“We need a civilian leadership of the transition,” Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo, who currently chairs ECOWAS, told journalists after hosting the meeting.

“The minute that leadership is put in place through the processes they themselves have agreed upon in Mali, the sanctions that have been placed against Mali will be lifted by ECOWAS.”

Akufo-Addo said that a mediator from the bloc would travel to Bamako in a week and that regional leaders wanted the process finished.

“I’m hoping that by the time he gets there these things would have been completed,” the Ghanaian leader said.

“We’re talking hopefully in days not in weeks.”

ECOWAS had given Mali’s new military rulers until Tuesday to name a civilian president and prime minister to head a transitional government.

The junta missed that deadline but its leader Colonel Assimi Goita, who was appointed interim head of state, attended the talks in Ghana on his first trip abroad since his seizure of power.

Ivory Coast’s President Alassane Ouattara insisted the meeting had made progress by “confirming that the president and the prime minister must be civilians”.

“As soon as they are designated, we will lift the sanctions,” he told journalists.

Opposition criticism

The military junta over the weekend backed an arrangement for an 18-month transition government in which the junta would be given the leading role in choosing the interim president.

But the document was rejected by Mali’s protest movement.

It underscored its objections on Tuesday, while stressing it did not want to “break or get involved in a conflict” with the junta.

The communique said that consultations about the transition — which culminated in a document published on Saturday after a three-day forum — were marked by “intimidation (and) anti-democratic and unfair practices” and “the desire to monopolise and confiscate power to the benefit of (the junta).”

“Corrections must be able to be made to the national consultation documents,” said Mountaga Tall, a leader of the so-called June 5 Movement, or M5, an alliance of political parties, trade unions, religious figures and NGOs.

Mali’s former president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 75, was toppled after months of protests by the M5 demanding his resignation.

He had been facing deep anger over an eight-year-old jihadist insurgency, economic problems and entrenched corruption.

The M5 wants to be given equal status with the junta during the transition.

Other criticism it has made of the junta-backed transition charter concerns the powers that would be given to the vice president, tasked with defence and security — a job description considered to be tailor-made for Goita.

– Unstable past –
Mali’s neighbours, who are anxious to avoid the fragile Sahel state spiralling into chaos, have not yet reacted to the transition roadmap.

Last month’s coup is Mali’s fourth since gaining independence from France in 1960.

A further reminder of its chronic instability came on Tuesday with the death on Tuesday of Moussa Traore, who led the country for 22 years.

In 1968, Moussa Traore, then a lieutenant, was the main instigator of a coup that overthrew Modibo Keita, the country’s first post-independence president. He stayed in power until he in turn was ousted in a coup in 1991.

Traore died aged 83 in the capital Bamako, his nephew Mohamed Traore told AFP.

 

 

-AFP

Mali Crisis: Summit With Buhari, Others End In Deadlock

The presidents of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Niger have scheduled meetings with Malian President and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation.

 

West African leaders ended a day-long summit in Mali on Thursday without a deal to soothe the country’s escalating political crisis.

Five of the region’s leaders met Mali President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation, as a long-running jihadist insurgency threatens to throw the country into chaos.

But the intervention failed to seal a deal and Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou — at the talks along with the leaders of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria — said Western African bloc ECOWAS would hold a summit on Monday.

 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is seen after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali.  (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

“Nothing has moved for the movement,” said one of the protest leaders, Imam Mahmoud Dicko, after holding talks with the presidents.

Earlier as the foreign leaders arrived on Thursday morning, a small group of demonstrators gathered outside the airport.

“We’re here to demand IBK’s resignation and ensure our comrades who have been killed are not forgotten,” said Yaya Sylla, a young protester, using the acronym by which Mali’s leader is known.

President of Ghana Nana Akufo-Addo (C) arrives at the Sheraton hotel where West African leaders will gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali, in Bamako on July 23, 2020.  (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

The June 5 Movement, named after the date when the protests began, has tapped into deep anger over Keita’s perceived failure to tackle the dire economy, corruption and the eight-year jihadist revolt.

Malians are also incensed at the disputed outcome of long-delayed parliamentary elections in March and April that handed victory to Keita’s party.

The summit came on the heels of a five-day mediation mission from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which ended on Sunday without reconciling the two sides.

 

President of Niger Mahamadou Issoufou arrives in Bamako on July 23, 2020, where West African leaders will gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

The West African leaders discussed proposed solutions that had been crafted in behind-the-scenes talks between the president and opposition this week.

The Institute for Security Studies think-tank warned on Thursday that there was an “unfavourable prejudice” towards the presidents, however, with some perceiving the leaders as protecting their own narrow interests.

“The search for solutions will have to take into account the need to improve the daily lives of Malians,” the think-tank said.

 

Macky Sall, President of Senegal, is seen after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali.  (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

Deepening crisis

Keita, who came to power in 2013, has come under increasing pressure to end Mali’s long-running jihadist conflict.

The poor nation of some 20 million people has been struggling to contain an insurgency that has driven hundreds of thousands of people from their homes since 2012, despite the presence of foreign troops.

In the latest violence, a French soldier was killed and two others were wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in northern Mali on Thursday, according to France’s presidency and the French army.

 

France’s soldier Tojohasina Razafintsalama, from Tarbes, southern France was killed, “during fighting against armed terrorist groups”, announced the Elysee Palace. (Photo by Handout / FRENCH ARMY / AFP) 

 

But much of the current tension was sparked in April, when the constitutional court tossed out 31 results from the parliamentary elections, benefiting Keita’s party and sparking protests.

Tensions then ratcheted up into a crisis on July 10 when an anti-Keita rally organised by the June 5 Movement turned violent.

Three days of clashes between protesters and security forces left 11 dead and 158 injured in the worst political unrest Mali had seen in years.

Seeking a way out, ECOWAS mediators suggested forming a new unity government including opposition members and appointing new constitutional court judges who could potentially re-examine disputed election results.

But the June 5 Movement had already rejected any outcome that did not involve Keita’s departure.

 

Mahamadou Issoufou (C), President of Niger, speaks during a press conference after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali. – In an exceptional one-day summit, the presidents of Senegal, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Nigeria and Niger have scheduled meetings with Malian President and leaders of a protest movement clamouring for his resignation. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

Possible compromise?

Despite the apparent failure of the ECOWAS mediators, the president’s camp and opposition figures had quietly been talking all week and the June 5 Movement notably suspended protests ahead of the forthcoming Eid festival.

Brema Ely Dicko, a sociologist at the University of Bamako, had suggested the opposition might be prepared to accept Prime Minister Boubou Cisse’s resignation instead of Keita’s.

“The M5-RFP is obliged to keep up the pressure to at least get something,” he said, using the opposition coalition’s formal acronym.

A European diplomat in Bamako who declined to be named said that the opposition may have overplayed its hand in demanding Keita’s departure.

“Nobody wants to open the door to a period of political instability in Mali, which remains the epicentre of the Sahel security crisis,” he added.

 

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari (L) and the Imam Mahmoud Dicko (C), influential leader of the opposition coalition, greet each other after a meeting in Bamako on July 23, 2020 as West African leaders gather in a fresh push to end an escalating political crisis in the fragile state of Mali. (Photo by MICHELE CATTANI / AFP)

 

 

AFP

ECOWAS Seek To Mediate In Mali Crisis

The representatives are from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)
The representatives are from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

 

 

Envoys from Mali’s neighbours led by former President Goodluck Jonathan were scheduled to arrive in Bamako on Wednesday in a bid to mediate in an escalating political crisis ahead of new high-risk protests.

Representatives from the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are having to bridge apparently irreconcilable differences between President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and a protest movement that is demanding his resignation.

Fresh protests have been set for Friday, a week after demonstrations that ignited three days of clashes with the security forces, leaving 11 dead and 158 injured, according to an official tally — Mali’s bloodiest toll from political unrest in years.

The so-called June 5 Movement, an alliance of political, social and civil-society leaders gathered around a powerful imam named Mahmoud Dicko, is tapping into deep-seated anger.

Malians are worried and frustrated by an eight-year-old jihadist insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives and driven hundreds of thousands from their homes and swept into Niger and Burkina Faso.

Many are also incensed at perceived government corruption and the outcome of long-delayed parliamentary elections in March and April that handed victory to Keita’s party.

A rally on Friday will be a “ceremony of sacrifice and of prayer” for protest victims, opposition leader Mountaga Tall told reporters on Tuesday after opposition figures were released after several days in detention.

“He who asked for us to get killed is no longer our president,” he said.

“We are convinced that President IBK has neither the intellectual nor the physical capacity to lead the country,” he said, referring to the head of state by his initials.

Several barricades were set up in the capital Bamako after he spoke, and some tyres were burned, but otherwise the city was calm on Wednesday.

Keita’s office said that the ECOWAS delegation would include constitutional experts.

One of the potential solutions being explored by the authorities is to appoint new judges to the Constitutional Court, a tribunal that is a major target of protest anger.

The court tossed out about 30 results of the legislative elections in a move that handed seats to members of Keita’s party.

An ECOWAS mission to Mali last month concluded that the court’s decision was “at the root of the tension” and called on the government to review the contested results or stage new elections as soon as possible.

It also called for a “consensus government of national union.”

These recommendations have found a broad echo in the international community.

Keita, for his part, has made several gestures toward the June 5 Movement, including the dissolution of the Constitutional Court to enable a U-turn on the contested seats.

However, the dissolution creates legal as well as political complications, which the expected constitutional experts may be able to resolve.

ECOWAS Historian Draws States’ Attention To Threats

ECOWAS_HQAs the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) marks its 41 years anniversary, the regional body has been identified as one that can be used to surmount the current threats and challenges of member states, if appropriately deployed

The official ECOWAS historian, Professor Amadu Sesay, a professor of African Government, Regional Integration, Security and Peace Support Operations says they must pay keen attention to the threats in the region such as democratic reversals, large scale post election violence and massive youth unemployment.

He said such threats if ignored over a long period of time, would weaken the viability of the region especially as the economic downturn resulting from these continue to escalate.

ECOWAS is said to have recorded more positive and developmental achievements than any other regional body in Africa, but not without challenges says the ECOWAS official historian, Professor Sesay.

He believes that some threats must be paid attention to.

Professor Sesay added that these were only possible with the support and collaboration of member states.

Some of the challenges the regional body still has to tackle moving forward, according to him, are fledgling democratic institutions, undue tenure elongation by some heads of state, weak national economies, inadequate funding for peace enforcement and over-reliance on developmental partners.