West African bloc ECOWAS has lifted a trade and travel blockade on Mali after masterminds of its August 18 coup agreed to form a transitional government led by a civilian.
In Abuja, Nigeria, on Tuesday, the Economic Community of West African States said the decision to lift the sanctions against the junta was taken because of the appointment of Mali’s 25-member transitional government on Monday.
Bah Ndaw, 70, is President of the 18-month transition government with military junta leader Col Assimi Goita as vice President and former Foreign Minister Moctar Ouane as Prime Minister.
In the new Cabinet, military officers occupy four key portfolios – national security, defence, national reconciliation and regional administration.
In the statement announcing the lifting of sanctions, ECOWAS chair and Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo called on the Mali government to comply with other demands by the regional body – to dissolve the ruling military council and release detainees.
President Akufo-Addo said the junta explained in the Transition Charter that the vice president is in charge of defence and security but will never replace the transition president.
“But it remains unclear if the new government enjoys the support of Malians, especially opposition coalition M5-RFP, which spearheaded national protests that preceded the military sacking of the government of elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.”
ECOWAS imposed the sanctions in August, following the coup against President Keita’s civilian government.
The 15-member bloc said then that the sanctions would only be lifted with the naming of a civilian prime minister to oversee the 18-month transition.
The trade restrictions included a ban on commercial trade and financial flows but not on basic necessities such as drugs, equipment to fight the Covid-19 pandemic, fuel or electricity.
ECOWAS also directed its members to shut their land and air borders against the embattled country and suspended Mali from all its decision-making organs.
It also ordered immediate implementation of restrictions against the military officers, their partners and collaborators in the coup pending restoration of constitutional order.
The bloc dispatched a high-level delegation to the West African nation to restore normalcy and further demanded release of all detained civilian and military personnel.
United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, demanded the “unconditional release” of President Keita and Prime Minister Boubou Cisse as well as the “immediate restoration of constitutional order”.
The junta has established the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (CNSP) to superintend a transition to civil rule.