West African leaders press Mali's junta over transition to civilian rule

Assimi Goita, president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) in Mali, is seen at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Accra, Ghana, on September 15, 2020.
Assimi Goita, president of the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) in Mali, is seen at the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) meeting in Accra, Ghana, on September 15, 2020. © Nipah Dennis, AFP

West African leaders met the head of Mali's military junta on Tuesday to press for the return to civilian rule nearly a month after rebel officers seized power in the fragile state.


The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) slapped sanctions on Mali after the putsch, including closing borders and a ban on trade and financial flows, and has called for elections within 12 months.

The 15-nation bloc also gave the new military rulers until Tuesday to name a civilian president and prime minister to head a transitional government.

"My reason for this meeting is simple. We need to bring finality to our deliberations on Mali," Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo said in an opening statement at a lodge at Peduase, eastern Ghana.

"That country can no longer afford any delay in putting a responsible government in place."

Akufo-Addo, the current ECOWAS rotating chairman, reiterated that Tuesday was "supposed to be the day the military junta is supposed to put in place a government".

"Closure should be brought to the matter now," he said.

Junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita, who was appointed interim head of state, was attending the talks on his first trip abroad since his seizure of power.

He was set to deliver a speech behind closed doors to the assembled leaders from across the region outlining his plans.

Opposition criticism

The military junta over the weekend backed an arrangement for an 18-month transition government in which the junta would be given the leading role in choosing the interim president.

But the document was rejected by Mali's protest movement.

It underscored its objections on Tuesday, while stressing it did not want to "break or get involved in a conflict" with the junta.

The communique said that consultations about the transition -- which culminated in a document published on Saturday after a three-day forum -- were marked by "intimidation (and) anti-democratic and unfair practices" and "the desire to monopolise and confiscate power to the benefit of (the junta)."

"Corrections must be able to be made to the national consultation documents," said Mountaga Tall, a leader of the so-called June 5 Movement, or M5, an alliance of political parties, trade unions, religious figures and NGOs.

Mali's former president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, 75, was toppled after months of protests by the M5 demanding his resignation.

He had been facing deep anger over an eight-year-old jihadist insurgency, economic problems and entrenched corruption.

The M5 wants to be given equal status with the junta during the transition.

Other criticism it has made of the junta-backed transition charter concerns the powers that would be given to the vice president, tasked with defence and security -- a job description considered to be tailor-made for Goita.

Unstable past

Mali's neighbours, who are anxious to avoid the fragile Sahel state spiralling into chaos, have not yet reacted to the transition roadmap.

Last month's coup is Mali's fourth since gaining independence from France in 1960.

A further reminder of its chronic instability came on Tuesday with the death on Tuesday of Moussa Traore, who led the country for 22 years.

In 1968, Moussa Traore, then a lieutenant, was the main instigator of a coup that overthrew Modibo Keita, the country's first post-independence president. He stayed in power until he in turn was ousted in a coup in 1991.

Traore died aged 83 in the capital Bamako, his nephew Mohamed Traore told AFP.


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