In an unusually bold move meant to stabilize the West African region, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decided to suspend Mali from its regional bloc. The leaders agreed that recent actions by the military amount to a coup d’état by the same man who took power nine months ago in another coup.
On Sunday, the Ghanaian President, Nana Akufo-Addo, who is the current chair of ECOWAS, opened the summit by reiterating that ECOWAS should “remain resolute in supporting the people of Mali to find a peaceful solution, and restore democracy and stability in the country.”
Presidents Umaro Sissou Embalo of Guinea Bissau, Julius Maada Bio of Sierra Leone, George Weah of Liberia, Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast, Adama Barrow of The Gambia, and Muhammadu Buhari of Nigeria were also in attendance, along with presidents from Burkina Faso, Niger, and Togo.
In their communique on the political situation in Mali, on Sunday, May 30, 2021, the bloc convened a summit to review the “prevailing socio-political crisis in Mali following the arrest, detention and subsequent resignations of the President and the Prime Minister of the Transition on May 26, 2021.”
The regional Heads of State who attended the summit also demanded the immediate, unconditional release of the former President of the Transition, the Prime Minister, and their collaborators who are currently under house arrest.
Last August, following months of anti-government protests over corruption and deepening concerns over jihadist insurgencies in the Sahel, the Malian military led by Colonel Assimi Goita overthrew Mali’s elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Following the coup d’état, ECOWAS coerced the military to appoint civilians as interim President and Prime Minister. That appointment lasted approximately nine months when on Monday, soldiers detained transitional President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Mctar Ouane – eventually releasing them several days later, saying they resigned.
According to a report by Christopher Giles and Peter Mwai, since receiving independence, military coups have been a regular occurrence in Africa.
Since its independence 60 years ago, Mali has only seen one democratic transfer of power in 2002. Economic stagnation remains the underlying effect of military coups in Mali. France provides financial support to Mali; however, that support attaches rules that restrict Mali’s monetary policy and underwrites Mali’s economic stagnation. Today, Mali is tied financially to France through the CFA system, which slants in favor of France’s interests.
In Niger, just days before the first peaceful transition of power between two democratically elected presidents, armed attackers tried seizing the presidential palace but were subdued by the presidential guards. Since its independence from France in 1960, Niger has seen four military coups.
In their statement, the regional heads of state and three foreign ministers who attended the summit in Accra rebuked the military, stating that the army violated the mediation outlined in a Transitional Charter on September 14, 2020.
The bloc also emphasized its earlier decisions that the Head of the transition, including the Vice President and the Prime Minister, should not, under any circumstances, be candidates for the upcoming Presidential election.
The coup leader, Goita, attended the conference as the new President of Mali, following a Malian court ruling granting him power. Goita is defending his actions by saying there was conflict within the transitional government and that he was not consulted, per the transitional charter, when the new Cabinet was chosen.