— West African leaders have called for $25 million in international aid to help secure the upcoming elections in Mali. As Guinea-Bissau also prepares for elections, leaders want an end to international sanctions on that country.
Heads of state from the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, are meeting this week in the Nigerian capital ahead of elections in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, two countries in turmoil.
After the French-led invasion of northern Mali in January that wrested territories away from Islamist militant groups, nationwide presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for July 28.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan said Wednesday that ECOWAS will need the support of countries outside Africa to help Mali have elections that are free, fair and non-violent.
“We should use this opportunity to appeal to the international community to intensify their assistance to bridge the financial gap of $25 million for the provision of critical logistical support, in particular air access, deployment of as many international and national observers for the 28th of July elections in Mali," he said.
Jonathan also called on the African Union and the European Union to lift sanctions against Guinea-Bissau and recognize that country's transitional government ahead of elections scheduled for November this year.
After a 2012 military coup, the U.N. Security Council imposed sanctions on Guinea-Bissau, saying it had “grave concerns” that the coup, among other things, was increasing the amount of drugs trafficked through Guinea-Bissau, a country well-known for being a transit point for cocaine coming from Latin America to Europe.
Military leaders in Guinea-Bissau have also been accused of drug trafficking.
Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said drug trafficking and terrorism are problems in West Africa, despite security gains in Mali this year. He also called on other West African leaders to strengthen economic ties in order to increase security and desperately needed development projects, particularly in the areas of electricity and transportation.
Mali's government recently affirmed the July 28 date for elections, despite reports of logistical problems in setting up the polls for the still-fractured country.