ECOWAS West Africa bloc gets tough on Mali with push for 31 MPs to resign

West African leaders on Monday adopted a tough four-point plan in a bid to resolve Mali's political crisis, including calling for the resignations of 31 parliamentarians elected in disputed polls and for the swift creation of a unity government. 

File photo of West African leaders taken in Abuja, Nigeria on December 21, 2019. (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP)
File photo of West African leaders taken in Abuja, Nigeria on December 21, 2019. (Photo by Kola SULAIMON / AFP) AFP - KOLA SULAIMON

In a statement issued after an extraordinary video summit, heads of the 15-nation, West African regional bloc, ECOWAS, stood by Mali's embattled President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. But the bloc also called for a unity government to be "established rapidly" and urged the opposition to join it.

Addressing demands by protestors that Keita quit, the bloc maintained Mali's democratic constitution had to be respected, and asked an ECOWAS commission "to consider sanctions against all those who act contrary to the normalisation process of the crisis."

The four-point plan included holding new elections for 31 parliamentary seats which were contested, sparking protests after the country's constitutional court ruled in favour of Keita's party.

Infuriated by corruption, disputed local election results and army losses to jihadists, tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets in recent weeks, sparking clashes with police in which the United Nations says at least 14 protesters have died this month.

The opposition, a group called M5-RFP whose figurehead is Saudi-trained Muslim cleric Mahmoud Dicko, has said it will not quit until Keita steps down, raising concerns in neighbouring countries of a protracted crisis.

ECOWAS leaders, however, did not agree with the opposition’s call for Keita's resignation. Instead, they demanded the formation of a unity government and called on the opposition to be part of that unity government.

Hours later, Mali's presidential office announced that a stripped-down cabinet comprising Prime Minister Boubou Cisse and six ministers would work to form a unity government.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, AP and REUTERS)



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