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West African states to consider post-coup sanctions at important summit

#West #African #states #postcoup #sanctions #important #summit

West African leaders on Sunday will weigh the future of sanctions against three countries where the military has seized power, sparking concerns about stability in one of the world’s most coup-prone regions.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has imposed tough economic and financial sanctions on Mali and less severe penalties on Burkina Faso and Guinea.

At a one-day summit in Accra, Ghana, ECOWAS will decide whether to maintain, strengthen or lift these measures.

Their talks will focus on the bloc’s demand that the juntas set an early timetable for returning to their barracks.

Mali, a poor landlocked country in the grip of a decades-long jihadist conflict, has been under a trade and finance embargo since January, a move that has severely strained its economy.

Burkina Faso – another Sahel country embroiled in jihadist unrest – and Guinea have so far only been suspended by the bodies of the 15-nation bloc.

The three states experienced four coups in 18 months: two in Mali in August 2020 and May 2021, one in Guinea in September 2021 and one in Burkina Faso in January this year.

Alarmed by the risk of contagion, ECOWAS has intensified meetings at the highest level and put pressure on the military rulers to hasten the return of civilian leadership.

On June 4, the bloc avoided deciding on sanctions, instead giving itself another month of negotiations.

– Mali “Progress” –

Bitter talks between ECOWAS and the Malian junta have been going on for months.

An ECOWAS mediator, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, visited Mali’s capital Bamako on Friday, part of a series of recent trips to try to reach a deal.

A source close to Jonathan told AFP that “Mali has made tremendous progress.”

Although “some adjustments still need to be made”, the Malian junta is doing “a good job” on the matter, the source added.

The junta triggered the sanctions in January by unveiling a plan to rule for five years.

But on Wednesday authorities in Bamako approved a plan to hold presidential elections in February 2024, ahead of a referendum on a revised constitution in March 2023 and parliamentary elections in late 2023.

On June 17, the authorities passed a new electoral law, which should also be seen positively by ECOWAS.

A potential sticking point, however, is that the legislation allows military candidates to contest the presidential election.

– Burkina and Guinea –

In Burkina Faso, ECOWAS is concerned about the 36-month transition period announced by the military rulers.

But it has appointed a senior mediator, former Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou, and a diplomat from the region told AFP: “We are on the way to compromise.”

Issoufou was expected in the capital Ouagadougou before the summit.

In an apparent compromise with ECOWAS, Burkina’s junta drafted a document which it handed over to the country’s political parties on Wednesday.

She proposes a constitutional referendum on December 24, 2024 and general and presidential elections on February 25, 2025.

“(It) focuses on two aspects – restoring security and organizing elections to restore normal constitutional order,” Prime Minister Albert Ouedraogo said.

The situation seems to be more complicated in Guinea, which is also a fragile state, but which – unlike Mali and Burkina Faso – is not caught in a jihad crisis.

Guinea’s junta has rejected an ECOWAS mediator and announced a 36-month transition period, a period that current African Union leader and Senegalese President Macky Sall has called “unthinkable”.

“ECOWAS will have to take action,” Sall said.

At the last summit, the bloc called on Guinean leaders to create a framework for dialogue with political actors and civil society.

On Monday, post-coup Prime Minister Mohamed Beavogui held initial talks with some political parties and civil society groups.

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