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Thousands of Malians demonstrated on Friday against the ECOWAS sanctions decreed to punish the military who postponed the elections and the transition for several years. At the same time, Colonel Assimi Goïta, head of the junta, validated a government “contingency plan” against West African sanctions.
At the call of the junta, the Malians demonstrated massively, Friday January 14 in Bamako and across the country, against West African sanctions and international pressure which does not weaken, noted AFP correspondents.
Adorned with the national colors of green, yellow and red, thousands of demonstrators began to gather in the capital, on the Independence Square for the weekly prayer opening an afternoon of mobilization orchestrated by the military.
Some demonstrators spent the night on the boulevard serving this hotspot for Malian demonstrations.
Large crowds also in Timbuktu, on Sankoré Square, in front of the mosque, several Tombouctiens told AFP.
Images posted on social media show a dense crowd marching behind the national flag in the streets of Kadiolo, bordering Côte d’Ivoire. Similar scene to Bougouni, also in the south.
Malians interviewed by an AFP correspondent said they took to the streets, not to support the junta, but to defend the country.
The “response plan” of Assimi Goïta and the junta
At the same time, the head of the junta and transitional president, Colonel Assimi Goïta, validated a government “risk plan” against West African sanctions, his services said on Facebook. The plan has several components, diplomatic or economic, they say without giving more details.
“The goal of this plan is not to be in an arm wrestling posture [avec les organisations ouest-africaines, et le Mali reste] open to dialogue, ”they say.
The Malian government launched Monday, the day after “extreme” retaliatory measures taken by the organization of West African states ECOWAS, a call “for a general mobilization throughout the national territory”.
Colonel Goïta, brought to the head of Mali by a first coup d’état in August 2020 and inducted as president “of the transition” following a second in May 2021, urged the Malians to “defend [leur] country”.
Mali, already plunged into a serious security and political crisis since the outbreak of independence and jihadist insurgencies in 2012, has been facing heavy sanctions from ECOWAS since Sunday. These punish the military’s plan to continue to govern for several years, and the revoked commitment to organize elections in February 2022 that would have brought civilians back to the head of the country.
The closure of the ECOWAS borders, the embargo on trade (excluding basic necessities) and on financial transactions as well as the freezing of Malian assets in West African banks are dangerously threatening the economy of a country among the poorest in the world, hit by violence and the pandemic, landlocked and heavily dependent on the West African ports of Senegal and Côte d’Ivoire.
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West African companies, as well as Air France have suspended their flights to Bamako. The country risks suffocation due to lack of liquidity. Mali was unable to carry out an operation on the regional financial market on Wednesday. It is “cut off from the rest of the world,” said Kako Nubukpo, commissioner for the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Uémoa).
The sanctions have sparked a concert of condemnation in Mali. The ECOWAS is accused of being the instrument of foreign powers and an outdated club of leaders cut off from the populations.
The UN at work
The junta wraps itself in national sovereignty. She asked for up to five more years. She said she is currently unable to call Malians to the polls, citing persistent insecurity in a territory of which two-thirds are beyond the control of the authorities. She is asking for time to carry out essential reforms, according to her, and to organize indisputable elections.
No significant voice was raised in Mali to approve the ECOWAS. On the other hand, a certain number are pressing for a resumption of discussions with ECOWAS, worrying about Mali’s international isolation.
Colonel Goïta assured to remain “open to dialogue with ECOWAS”.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Thursday demanded from the Malian government an “acceptable” electoral calendar, recalling that ECOWAS could then gradually lift the sanctions.
Mali’s partners as important as France and the United States have supported the West African sanctions. The head of European diplomacy, Josep Borrell, said Thursday that the European Union was going to take measures “along the same lines” as those of the ECOWAS.
No way out of the crisis is discernible for the moment. The UN Secretary General said he was working with ECOWAS and the African Union to create the conditions for the junta to return to a “reasonable and acceptable” position.