Members of the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) in an emergency summit held on Sunday, May 30, in Ghana’s capital Accra decided to suspend Mali from the group over the military coup carried out last week.
The president Bah Ndaw, the prime minister Moctar Ouane and the newly appointed defense minister Souleymane Doucore of Mali’s transitional executive were arrested by the military in its Kati base in capital Bamako on May 24 after disagreements over the cabinet reshuffle a day before. They were forced to resign on Wednesday.
ECOWAS, the UN and the African Union have asked the military to immediately release the government leaders. However, coup leader colonel Assimi Goita refused to comply and on May 28, the constitutional court declared him president of the country. Goita was present at the ECOWAS meeting on Sunday.
Speaking to the reporters after the meeting, Ghana’s foreign minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said that the suspension will be effective until February 2022 which is the deadline set last year for the transitional authority to hand over the power to a civilian government. ECOWAS also said that the deadline for the election of president (27th February, 2022) should absolutely be followed. The ECOWAS also demanded that the military hand over the powers to an inclusive civilian government immediately.
The deadline was set when a transitional government led by Ah Ndaw came into power in September last year after a military coup led by Goita forced president Boubacar Keita to resign in August.
Goita justified the coup claiming that he was not consulted when the transitional government reshuffled the cabinet as per the transitional charter adopted last year. Ndaw and Ouane were transferred from the Keita camp to house arrest on Friday.
ECOWAS demanded the immediate release of Ndaw and Ouane, calling their arrest a violation of attempts at mediation which began after last years’ coup. However, it stopped short of imposing sanctions on Mali as it did last year.
The European Union and the UN Security Council also condemned the arrest and demanded immediate release of the leaders.
Meanwhile, France has asked the military to release the leaders and has threatened to withdraw its forces from the country if they are not.
France has over 5,000 troops stationed in the country under Operation Barkhane. It claims the operation is crucial to fight the rising threats of extremist Islamist forces such as al-Qaeda and ISIS. However, French forces have been found to be involved in the killing of civilians and their presence has invited massive popular protests calling it a form of colonial interference.