West African bloc chairman calls for Mali junta’s cooperation

BOUREIMA BALIMA

The military junta in Mali must work with the West African regional bloc to ensure a swift return to civilian rule, Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou said on Monday, opening a summit in which Mali’s post-coup progress is high on the agenda.

A group of army colonels has ruled Mali since ousting President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita on August 18. No consensus has yet been reached on the make-up and duration of a transitional government ahead of promised elections.

The 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is calling for a vote within a year, a timeline the junta, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP), has not committed to.

“It is the duty of our community to assist Malians with the rapid recovery of all democratic institutions. The military junta must help us to help Mali,” ECOWAS chairman Issoufou said.

The bloc will issue a communique on the results of the summit, which is also expected to address other regional issues, including the coronavirus pandemic.

Seeking to pressure the junta, ECOWAS has already closed borders and halted financial flows amid concerns from some West African leaders the coup could undermine their power and democratic gains in the region.

Talks in the capital Bamako about the transition period got off to a bumpy start on Saturday, when supporters of the influential M5-RFP political coalition accused the junta of sidelining them.

International powers fear continued political turmoil will further destabilise Mali and undermine a joint fight against Islamist militants in the wider Sahel region.

The CNSP’s negotiations, which are also being held in regional capitals across Mali, will continue later this week.  – Thomson Reuters Foundation.