A delegation of Chiefs of Defense Staff from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) will travel to Mali Wednesday to inform the military junta ECOWAS wants the country returned to democratic rule.
ECOWAS spokesman Sonny Ugoh said the military delegation is expected to be followed later in the week by another delegation comprising six ECOWAS heads of state.
Tuesday, ECOWAS suspended Mali’s membership in the regional group following last week’s military coup d’that toppled democratically elected President Amadou Toumani Touré.
Ugoh said ECOWAS is sending a message to the junta in Mali that there is no reward for military escapades.
“It’s one of the basic things we do when you have this kind of intrusion by the military into governance, and it is in the spirit of our commitment to our regional protocol and democracy and governance through which we insist on zero tolerance for power opting through any other means apart from [the] democratic process,” he said.
Ugoh said the military delegation will deliver a strong mesaage from ECOWAS’s about the military takeover.
“Beyond this suspension, tomorrow, a delegation of Chiefs of Defense Staff is heading there [Mali] with the mandate to sensitize the junta on the need to return to constitutional rule and to intimate them of further consequences that the region intends to impose on them should they refuse to heed the provision of regional leaders,” Ugoh said.
He said the heads of state agree to activate the ECOWAS standby force to send a stronger message that the region may consider the use of force if the junta in Bamako refuses to restore democracy.
“We believe that they will see the handwriting on the wall. We believe that they will understand the gravity of the situation and the enormity of what confronts them,” he said.
Ugoh said a delegation of ECOWAS heads state is expected in Bamako later in the week as part of an overall regional effort to engage the junta leaders in Mali and to put pressure on the military leaders.
He said the regional leaders also discussed the possibility of applying economic sanctions.
“One of the prospects that they discussed is the possibility of a travel ban on members of the junta. We want make them as uncomfortable as possible. We want to demonstrate to them that there can be no reward for this kind of behavior, not just in their own case, but also as an example to others who might want to tow this line of adventurism, to discourage such behavior,” Ugoh said.
Ugoh said it is not fair to compare the role of ECOWAS peacekeepers in Ivory Coast during that country’s conflict in 2010. He said ECOWAS has the resolve to deal with peace and security in the sub-region.
“The French, who intervened in the case of Cote d’Ivoire, did say that they did so at the behest of the UN, and the UN has primary responsibility for peace [and] stability in the whole world, West Africa included. So, if indeed some power has been able to resolve the situation within the responsibility of the UN, I don’t think it would be fair enough to condemn a region,” Ugoh said.