Libreville – Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said on Monday that West African nations had imposed stinging sanctions on Mali with “the greatest reluctance” over failures by its military leaders to restore civilian rule.
Following two coups since 2020, Mali’s military reneged on a promise to hold elections next month, instead saying it could be up to five years until polls that return the country to civilian government.
In response, leaders from the Economic Community of West Africa States (Ecowas) imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on January 16, in a decision backed by the US, the EU and former colonial power France.
“It is unacceptable for a military regime to remain in power for five years, so they might as well hold elections,” Ouattara told reporters during a visit to Gabon’s capital Libreville, where he met with President Ali Bongo Ondimba.
“We did everything to ensure that Mali’s military authorities organise elections within a suitable timeframe – it is with the greatest reluctance that we put these sanctions in place.”
As well as closing borders and imposing a trade embargo, Ecowas leaders also halted financial aid to Mali and froze the country’s assets at the Central Bank of West African States.
The sanctions have already begun to bite in landlocked Mali, one of the world’s poorest countries.
“The situation for the population is difficult in Mali as well as in neighbouring countries such as Senegal and Ivory Coast,” Ouattara said. “We hope that the situation will normalise as soon as possible.”
After Mali’s junta called for demonstrations against the Ecowas sanctions, thousands took to the streets in the capital Bamako on Friday.
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