West Africa’s main regional bloc has imposed sanctions against the military government in Guinea and those slowing Mali’s post-coup transition – its toughest response yet to a run of military takeovers.
The move on Thursday was agreed at an emergency summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in Accra to respond to last week’s putsch in Guinea and perceived slow progress towards constitutional rule in Mali following a coup last year.
Regional heads of state decided to freeze the financial assets and impose travel bans on Guinea’s military leaders and their relatives, insisting on the release of President Alpha Conde and a short transition.
“In six months elections should be held,” said ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou at a briefing.
The bloc also piled more pressure on Mali’s transitional government, demanding they stick to an agreement to organise elections for February 2022 and present an electoral roadmap by next month, according to the post-summit communique.
Anyone in Mali hindering preparations for the elections faces the same sanctions as those imposed in Guinea, it said.
Leaders who took part in the summit hailed this more hardline stance. West and Central Africa has seen four coups since last year – political upheaval that has intensified concerns about a backslide towards military rule in a resource-rich but poverty-stricken region.
“I welcome the strong actions of the summit to safeguard democracy, peace, security and stability in the subregion,” Senegalese President Macky Sall tweeted.
Coup leaders in Guinea are holding consultations this week with various public figures, groups and business leaders in the country to map a framework for the transition.
Late on Thursday they said they were also expecting a delegation of regional heads of state to visit Conakry for talks on Friday.
Soldiers behind the September 5 coup have said they ousted Conde because of concerns about poverty and corruption, and because he was serving a third term only after altering the constitution to permit it.
ECOWAS already has said it will impose penalties on Guinea’s military rulers unless they immediately release Conde, who has been held at an undisclosed location since the coup.
Meanwhile the putsch in Mali was largely precipitated by a security crisis, which has seen militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State extend their influence across the north and centre of the country.
The new Malian authorities’ pledge to hold presidential and legislative elections early next year has been undermined by their failure to meet various deadlines, including the start of voter roll updates and the presentation of a new constitution.
The transition was dealt a further setback in May when the colonel who led the initial coup, Assimi Goita, ordered the arrest of the interim president and then took over the role himself.
Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo, who is ECOWAS chairman, had said in remarks before a closed-door session that he hoped the heads of state will help offer durable solutions to the crisis.
Separately on Thursday, the International Monetary Fund said it was closely monitoring the situation in Guinea and called for a peaceful resolution.
Spokesman Gerry Rice said the global lender had completed fifth and sixth reviews of its programmes in the country in December, and provided assistance to help it to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.