A top official of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said some regional heads of state will soon meet in Ivory Coast to demand a “democracy roadmap” from Mali’s military junta.
Remi Ajebewa, head of political affairs and international cooperation of the West-African regional bloc, said ECOWAS is working carefully so as not to create an impression of trying to impose toppled President Amadou Toumani Toure on Malians.
“ECOWAS will not abandon [Malians], but we want the military junta to understand that they cannot come to power through unconstitutional means,” said Ajebewa. “They should either relinquish power or look for somebody credible right now [to rule], and then they should give us a roadmap of how they are going to do it.”
He said ECOWAS’s protocol provides for an intervention in member countries if there is military or political instability that undermines democracy.
Ajebewa’s comments came after an ECOWAS delegation abandoned plans to meet with Mali's junta leaders following pro-coup protests at the airport in the capital, Bamako, Thursday.
The U.S. State Department said it is disappointed that ECOWAS leaders were unable to land, but remains hopeful that there can be a rapid diplomatic solution to the situation.
But, Ajebewa said the sub-regional bloc is determined to push forward its efforts to ensure Mali returns to constitutional rule.
“The ECOWAS leaders have gone to Cote d’Ivoire to have a discussion with the chair [President Alassane Ouattara] and it will be at that meeting that they will possibly determine an ultimatum, or the period, that the junta will be allowed [to leave power],” said Ajebewa. “We also have [an] ECOWAS standby force as a last resort and we are in close contact with our international partners, including the African Union and the United Nations.”
Last week, mutinous soldiers toppled the democratically-elected Toure after accusing him of failing to decisively address an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the north.
Ajebewa cited countries where the sub-regional bloc has been able to resolve military instability, including Guinea, Guinea-Bissau and Niger. He said ECOWAS has the experience to handle the military crisis in Mali.
“Carrot and stick diplomacy is going to be used and I’m surely confident that, with the success that we had in some of the places in the region… every initiative taken by ECOWAS will be successful,” said Ajebewa. “We are being cautious in the sense that we don’t want to give a wrong impression that we are there just to impose the former president [on the people]. What we are for is the due process [towards democracy].”
Ajebewa said ECOWAS has a zero tolerance for an unconstitutional power grab in the West African sub-region. He said the sub-regional bloc will continue to stiffen sanctions it imposed on Mali following the overthrow of the government.