West African leaders hold urgent summit on Mali coup

West African leaders

Former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan attends the Ecowas Extraordinary Summit on the situation in Mali in Accra on May 30, 2021.

Photo credit: Nipah Dennis | AFP


West African leaders met in Ghana on Sunday to discuss a response to Mali's second coup in nine months, which has sparked warnings of fresh sanctions and deep concerns over stability in the volatile Sahel region.

Kicking off the talks, Ghana's President Nana Akufo-Addo stressed the region's "commitment to a peaceful transition" in Mali.

Presidents Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria, Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso's Marc Christian Kabore were among those attending the extraordinary summit, which came as another deadly jihadist attack underscored Mali's chronic instability.

Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, mediator in the crisis, was also present.

Remain resolute

"I urge your excellencies to remain resolute in supporting the people of Mali to find a peaceful solution and restore democracy and stability in the country," said Akufo-Addo, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas).

"I reiterate, on behalf of Ecowas, our continued commitment to the peaceful transition in Mali with the basic goal of restoring democratic government and stability in Mali and in our region," he said.

Mali's new president Colonel Assimi Goita had arrived in the Ghanaian capital Accra on Saturday for preliminary talks.

Goita led the young army officers who overthrew Mali's elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita last August over perceived corruption and his failure to quell a bloody jihadist insurgency.

Interim president

After the takeover, the military agreed to appoint civilians as interim president and prime minister under pressure from Ecowas.

But on Monday, soldiers detained transitional president Bah Ndaw and prime minister Moctar Ouane, releasing them on Thursday while saying that they had resigned.

The twin arrests triggered a diplomatic uproar and marked Mali's second apparent coup within a year.

Mali's constitutional court completed Goita's rise to full power on Friday by naming him transitional president.

With the junta going back on its previous commitment to civilian political leaders, doubts have been raised about its other pledges, including a promise to hold elections in early 2022.

The junta said this week it would continue to respect that timetable, but added that it could be subject to change.

Five dead in fresh attack

Mali's presidency said on its Facebook page that Goita would hold one-on-one talks with Akufo-Addo in Accra "as well as bilateral meetings with partners and friends of Mali".

Ecowas issued sanctions against Mali after the August coup before lifting them when the transitional government was put in place.

The 15-nation bloc has warned of re-imposing sanctions on the country, as have the United States and former colonial power France.

French leader Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper published Sunday that Paris "could not stay by the side of a country where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or a transition".

Pull out troops

And he warned that France would pull its troops out of Mali if the country lurches towards radical Islamism under Goita's leadership.

France has around 5,100 troops in the region under its anti-jihadist operation Barkhane, which spans five countries in the Sahel -- Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.

Four civilians and a police officer were killed Sunday by suspected jihadists in southern Mali, a region that has previously been mostly spared from the country's Islamist unrest, a security official said on condition of anonymity.

The unidentified men attacked a checkpoint near the town of Bougouni, around 100 kilometres (60 miles) from Mali's borders with Ivory Coast and Guinea between 3.30am (0330 GMT) and 4:00 am, the official said. A local lawmaker confirmed the attack.

Mali is among the world's poorest countries, and the previous Ecowas sanctions hit hard.


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