West African nations will close their borders with Mali, sever diplomatic ties and impose tough economic sanctions in response to its “unacceptable” delay in holding elections following a 2020 military coup, the 15-state regional bloc said on Sunday, January 1, 2022.
The fresh measures from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) represent a significant hardening of its stance towards Mali, whose interim authorities have proposed holding elections in December 2025 instead of this February as initially agreed with the bloc.
In a communique issued after an emergency summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra, ECOWAS said it found the proposed timetable to transition back to constitutional rule unacceptable.
This schedule “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage”, ECOWAS added.
The organisation said it had agreed to impose additional sanctions with immediate effect. These included the closure of members’ land and air borders with Mali, the suspension of non-essential financial transactions, the freezing of Malian state assets in ECOWAS commercial banks and recalling their ambassadors from Bamako.
Meanwhile, regional monetary union UEMOA instructed all financial institutions under its umbrella to immediately suspend Mali, severing the country’s access to regional financial markets.
The Malian interim government said it was astonished by the decisions. In response, it vowed to close its side of the border with ECOWAS member states, recall its ambassadors, and reserve the right to reconsider its membership in ECOWAS and UEMOA.
“The government strongly condemns these illegal and illegitimate sanctions,” it said in a statement read on state television by spokesperson Abdoulaye Maiga in the early hours of Monday, calling on Malians to remain calm.
They have previously blamed the election delay partly on the challenge of organising a democratically robust vote amid a violent Islamist insurgency.