Participants in Mali’s “National Conference on Re-foundation” on Thursday presented as the final phase of consultations prior to elections to extend the current transition to civilian rule from “six months to five years”, in part because of security issues.
ECOWAS, West Africa’s main political and economic bloc promised more sanctions on the coup leaders if Mali does not produce a plan for February elections by December 31.
Mali’s transitional government has made little progress since it initially agreed to hold elections in February 2022; 18 months after an army faction led by Colonel Assimi Goita overthrew President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita. It blamed disorganisation and a rash of Islamist violence in the north and centre.
The government has said it will take the recommendations of the Conference and decide on a new election calendar by the end of January.
“The participants were in favour of extending the transition period in order to carry out the institutional reforms that will allow for credible, fair and transparent elections. The deadlines put forward vary from six months to five years,” said a document read at the end of the conference, in the presence of Colonel Goïta.
The conference participants also recommended “developing new military partnerships with military powers” and “disbanding all militias and integrating them into the Malian army,” the final report said.
The four-day meeting in Bamako that was supposed to produce recommendations for reforms to remedy the ills of the country caught in turmoil since the outbreak of independence and jihadist insurgencies in 2012, were boycotted by many Malian organisations.
A prolonged transition back to democracy could isolate Mali from its neighbours and from former colonial power France that reducing its military presence of thousands of soldiers deployed there against insurgents linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State.
It could also undermine democracy in West and Central Africa where military coup leaders in Chad and Guinea are also under pressure to organise elections and give up power.