On Sunday, West African leaders agreed to suspend sanctions against Mali's military government in exchange for adopting a March 2024 return to civilian rule and a two-year transition period for Burkina Faso to democracy. Accra, the capital of Ghana, hosted a meeting of ECOWAS leaders to discuss efforts to obtain guarantees for the restoration of civilian authority in Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso.
Mali saw coups in August 2020 and May 2021, with Guinea and Burkina Faso following in September 2021 and January 2018 respectively. ECOWAS slapped severe trade and economic sanctions against Mali but less severe measures against Guinea and Burkina Faso out of concern that the situation could spread in a region notorious for military coups.
According to ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, "the chiefs of state took a firm first decision to withdraw the economic and financial sanctions on Mali after debate." According to Brou, ECOWAS will keep an eye on the situation and will continue to suspend Mali for the time being.
According to one ECOWAS delegate, the agreement also mandates that no member of the military junta seek for office in Mali's upcoming presidential election. Following Mali's military government's announcement of a plan to rule for five years, ECOWAS imposed a trade and financial embargo on the country in January.
The relatively small, landlocked Sahel state has been severely impacted by the sanctions, and its economy is already suffering from a decade-long Islamist war. A plan to hold presidential elections in February 2024 was agreed by Malian officials on Wednesday after months of negotiations. Legislative elections will take place in the latter part of 2023, after a referendum on a new constitution is held in March 2023.
Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, the ECOWAS mediator in Mali, paid a visit to the nation last week. According to a member of his entourage, Mali had achieved "enormous progress."
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