The highest decision-making body of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has urged the military junta in Mali to, within days, hand over to a civilian administration to steer the transitional process to restore constitutional rule in that country.
The Chairman of the ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments, President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, said immediately the military junta handed over to a civilian body to steer the process, ECOWAS would lift the sanctions it had imposed on Mali.
Days after the military coup in Mali on August 18, this year, ECOWAS, of which Mali is a member, placed sanctions on the country.
All ECOWAS member states closed their borders with Mali, suspended all financial flows between its 14 other member states and Mali and also suspended Mali from its internal decision-making bodies.
Addressing the media immediately after about six hours of consultative meeting on the political situation in Mali at the Presidential Villa at Peduase, near Aburi in the Eastern Region yesterday, President Akufo-Addo said “the situation in Mali calls for a quick resolution”.
He said it was important, more than anything else, that Mali was managed by a civilian administration that could begin the process of normalising things.
The meeting, which was convened by President Akufo-Addo in his capacity as the Chairman of the regional body, attracted eight Presidents and representatives of the remaining Heads of State, as well as the Malian junta, known as the National Committee for the Salvation of the People (NCSP), led by Col Assimi Goita.
President Akufo-Addo said if the government was put in place, it would also organise resistance to any terrorist menace.
"That was the reason I decided that it will be a good thing for us to meet face-to-face with the military leaders in Mali, so we could talk eyeball to eyeball. It has happened, I believe in a successful manner," he added.
He noted that ECOWAS, through the meeting, had been able to reaffirm its position for Mali to get a civilian transitional team in place very soon.
He said in a week the mediator in the Malian crisis, Mr Goodluck Jonathan, a former President of Nigeria, would go to Bamako to see the state of affairs.
He expressed optimism that by the time Mr Jonathan got there, the agreed milestones would have been completed, so that the sanctions could be lifted.
"We are talking in days, not in weeks. The military leader participated in the summit and he insisted that he had to go back and be in consultation with those who are responsible for the decisions and get their buy-in. I think all of us understood that he will need to do that," he said.
Opening the consultative meeting earlier, President Akufo-Addo had told his colleague Heads of State and the junta in Mali that there was the urgent need to bring finality to the situation in Mali, following the military coup on August 18, this year.
He said Mali and the West African sub-region could not afford any delay in putting a responsible government in place after the overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita because terrorist elements were taking advantage of the situation in Mali to foment disturbances.
The President said the deadline for the military junta to put in place a government, in line with the criteria ECOWAS set at its last summit on August 28, this year, “has not been met”.
The ECOWAS Authority, at that extraordinary summit, had directed that the Head of the Transition Government and the Prime Minister, both civilians, should be appointed not later than yesterday.
The ECOWAS Chairman explained that “the circumstances of life in Mali today required that closure be brought to the matter now” and expressed the belief that the face-to-face meeting between the ECOWAS Heads of State and Government and the military leaders of Bamako would provide the best opportunity to find a firm resolution.
He said fortunately the military leaders had also responded positively to his invitation and were at Peduase for the resolution of the matter.
Before the meeting broke into a closed session, President Akufo-Addo said it was prudent for the ECOWAS leaders to meet among themselves and agree on a common position before meeting the junta leaders.
He invited the President of the ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, and the ECOWAS Mediator, Mr Jonathan, who he said had been doing a yeoman’s job on behalf of the community, to brief the meeting in camera regarding the evolution of the situation in Mali.
President Akufo-Addo described as a good development the decision of the military junta to allow former President Keita to leave Mali to seek medical attention in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and wished him a speedy recovery and God’s blessings.
The 75-year-old former leader flew to the UAE on September 5, this year for medical treatment, after suffering a minor stroke shortly after his overthrow on August 18, this year.
The civil war in Mali is a series of armed conflicts that started between the northern and the southern parts of Mali from January 2012.
On January 16, 2012, many insurgent groups began fighting a campaign against the Malian government for independence or greater autonomy for northern Mali, which they called Azawad.
The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), an organisation fighting to make that area of Mali an independent homeland for the Tuareg people, had taken control of the region by April 2012.
On March 22, 2012, then President Amadou Toumani Toure was ousted in a coup d'état over his handling of the crisis, a month before a presidential election was to have taken place, as mutinous soldiers, the National Committee for the Restoration of Democracy and State (CNRDR), took control and suspended the constitution of Mali.
As a consequence of the instability following the coup, Mali's three largest northern cities — Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu — were overrun by the rebels for three consecutive days.
On April 5, 2012, after the capture of Douentza, the MNLA said it had accomplished its goals and called off its offensive.
The following day, it proclaimed the independence of northern Mali from the rest of the country, renaming it Azawad.
The MNLA were initially backed by the Islamist group Ansar Dine. After the Malian military was driven from northern Mali, Ansar Dine and a number of smaller Islamist groups began imposing strict Sharia laws.
The MNLA and Islamists struggled to reconcile their conflicting visions for an intended new state. Afterwards, the MNLA began fighting against Ansar Dine and other Islamist groups, including the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa (MOJWA/MUJAO), a splinter group of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
By July 17, 2012, the MNLA had lost control of most of northern Mali's cities to the Islamists.