The Economic Community of West African States has lifted sanctions that were imposed upon Mali after the military coup that took place on August 18, according to Reuters.
ECOWAS released a statement in conjunction with the removal of sanctions, offering an explanation for the bloc’s decision. “Taking into account the notable progress made towards a constitutional normalisation, and to support the process, the heads of states have decided to lift the sanctions on Mali, and called on partners to support Mali,” said the statement, which was signed by the chair of ECOWAS, according to US News & World Report.
ECOWAS, consisting of 15 West African states, imposed trade restrictions on “commercial trade and financial flows, but not on basic necessities, drugs, equipment to fight the coronavirus pandemic, fuel or electricity,” Al Jazeera reports. The sanctions were placed shortly after the military coup against former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita by junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita. ECOWAS, which also acts a regional security organization, communicated its intention to impose sanctions until “civilian leaders were appointed” to government positions, reports Africa News.
According to the Council on Foreign Relations, ECOWAS states have little means to enforce bans on financial flows and trade. Although Reuters and VOA describe the sanctions as “crippling,” the CFR reports that the sanctions would be most effective if they impact the Malian elites.
Goodluck Jonathan, an ECOWAS envoy and ex-Nigerian President tasked with the negotiations, made a statement that “the military leaders have yet to satisfy ECOWAS’ demand that a civilian be named as vice-president,” VOA reports.
Johnathan’s statement comes after Col. Goita was appointed as interim vice-president. Retired Col. Bah Ndaw, Mali’s former defense minister, was sworn in as interim president, and Moctar Ouane, previously the Malian Minister of Foreign Affairs, was named as the interim civilian Prime Minister. The appointments were chosen by a committee consisting of “representatives of political parties and civil and religious groups,” reports the Council on Foreign Relations.
VOA reports that the appointment of Goita as vice-president may be a “sticking point” with ECOWAS due to Goita’s military position and involvement with the coup.
The interim government had originally proposed a measure that would allow Goita to “potentially replace Ndaw if ever he was incapacitated,” reports Al Jazeera. However, this measure was abandoned during the negotiation discussions.
The move by ECOWAS to lift sanctions was made only a day after Interim President Ndaw announced a new government of 25 ministers, reports Al Jazeera. The defense, security, territorial administration, and national reconciliation ministerial positions all went to military officials. According to The Washington Post, “Armed movements from the north that signed the 2015 peace agreement have entered the government for the first time with two ministerial portfolios.”
The inclusion of northern armed forces is a landmark gesture. Following an uprising in 2012, a large chunk of Mali lies outside of government control. Ethnic tensions were further inflamed by corruption and Mali’s economy under former President Keita, reports Al Jazeera. Thousands have died in this ongoing conflict, and hundreds more have been forced to flee their homes, Al Jazeera continues. The addition of armed movements into ministerial positions displays a willingness to cooperate to ease the tensions.
The newly sworn in President Ndaw has expressed his commitment to honor the transition charter created by the interim government. During the ceremony in which Ndaw was sworn in, he said, “The charter is my guidebook…Mali has given me everything. I am happy to be its submissive slave, willing to do everything for it to return to full constitutional legality, with elected authorities, legitimate representatives,” according to Al Jazeera.
Although reference was made to the charter, the charter has not been released to ECOWAS or the Malian public. Moving forward, the Malian interim government has 18 months to hold civilian elections. ECOWAS mediator Jonathan wrote in a tweet that “We are optimistic that this event will signal the beginning of the return to normalcy in Mali.”