The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) on Sunday said it will close borders with Mali and impose stringent economic sanctions with immediate effect.
This is in response to an “unacceptable” delay by the West African country in holding promised elections after a 2020 military coup.
Mali’s military-dominated government on the other hand “strongly” condemned the sanctions as “illegal”. It added that it has closed its land borders “with the states concerned”.
ECOWAS in a communique issued after an emergency summit in Accra, Ghana said it found the proposed timetable for a transition back to constitutional rule totally unacceptable.
The country’s interim authorities proposed December 2025 for the elections instead of this February as originally agreed with the 15-state regional bloc.
This schedule “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage,” ECOWAS added.
The organisation said it had agreed to impose additional sanctions with immediate effect. These included the closure of members’ land and air borders with Mali; the suspension of non-essential financial transactions; the freezing of Malian state assets in ECOWAS commercial banks; and recalling their ambassadors from Bamako.
The West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA), the regional monetary union also instructed all financial institutions under its umbrella to suspend Mali with immediate effect, severing the country’s access to regional financial markets.
In a televised statement in the early hours of Monday, Military spokesman Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga said that “The government of Mali strongly condemns these illegal and illegitimate sanctions.”
They have previously blamed the election delay partly on the challenge of organising a democratically robust vote amid a violent Islamist insurgency.
Bamako in its statement accused ECOWAS and UEMOA of being “exploited by extra-regional powers with ulterior motives”, an apparent reference to Mali’s partners engaged militarily in the Sahel such as France.
“On the basis of reciprocity, Mali has decided to recall its ambassadors and close its land and air borders with the states concerned,” he added.
Mali’s transitional government said it “deplores the inhuman nature of these measures which affect populations already severely affected by the security crisis and the health crisis”.
Faced with the West African embargo, the government said it had made arrangements to ensure normal supplies “by all appropriate means” and called on the population to remain calm.
In August 2020, army officers, led by Colonel Assimi Goita, toppled the elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita amid street protests against his unpopular rule.
Under threat of sanctions, Goita subsequently promised an 18-month transition to civilian rule after holding presidential and legislative elections.
But in May 2021, Goita staged a de facto second coup when he pushed aside the interim president and took the job himself.
The move has disrupted the reform timetable and was met with widespread diplomatic condemnation.