The United States supports the actions taken by the Economic Community of West African States, or ECOWAS, in defense of democracy and stability in Mali.
In a special summit on January 9th, the 15-member regional block imposed additional sanctions on Mali, in light of the years-long delay in holding elections proposed by the country’s military leaders. The sanctions include suspension of non-essential financial transactions, closing of ECOWAS members’ land and air borders with Mali, and recalling their ambassadors from Bamako.
Mali’s current military leadership, headed by Assimi Goita, came to power after a coup d’etat in August 2020. which overthrew Malian President Ibraham Keita. In May 2021, Goita pushed out Mali’s interim president and took over the presidency himself. Originally, Mali’s interim government promised to hold elections in February 2022. In December, the leadership proposed extending the timeline until 2026.
In the communique announcing the new sanctions, the leaders of ECOWAS called the new timeline “totally unacceptable.” They emphasized they were imposing sanctions to facilitate the return to democratic rule.
The European Union, France, and the United Kingdom are among those in the international community who joined the United States in supporting the ECOWAS action.
Speaking at a recent UN Security Council briefing on Mali, U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said, “We share ECOWAS’s deep disappointment with the blatant lack of political will shown by the Mali transition government to make progress toward organizing elections, as it committed to do following the August 2020 coup d’état. We urge the transitional government to keep its pledge to the Malian people to return their country to democracy. It is what the people of Mali have asked for; it’s what they want; it is what they deserve. A five-year transition is not in their interest and extends the pain of the people.”
Ambassador Thomas Greenfield also deplored the “increasingly volatile security situation” in Mali. She warned, however, of the destabilizing impact of Russia-backed Wagner Group forces, with their pattern of human rights abuses, which pose a danger to MINUSMA peacekeepers and to the people of Mali, as well.
Speaking directly to Mali’s UN Ambassador Issa Konfourou, Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said, “Our goal is to work with you. . . .Let’s work together to bring stability to Mali and its people and to bring Mali back into the community of nations where Mali belongs.”