The African Union has slapped a travel ban on Mali's coup leaders and ordered their assets frozen, a day after West African nations imposed a tough series of regional sanctions. The sanctions take effect immediately.
The AU Peace and Security Council ordered the continent-wide sanctions Tuesday during a three-hour meeting. Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra made the announcement.
"The Peace and Security Council decides to impose with immediate effect individual measures including a travel ban and asset freeze against the leader of the military junta, as well as against all individual entities contributing in one way or another to the maintenance of the unconstitutional status quo," Lamamra said.
Lamamra said the Peace and Security Council had also endorsed a move by ECOWAS, the Economic Commission of West African States, to activate its military standby force.
The Tuareg Uprising
- Tuaregs are an ethnically Berber, nomadic people in West Africa's Sahel and Sahara regions.
- Tuareg fighters have staged multiple uprisings in Mali and Niger for greater autonomy.
- Current Mali rebellion began in January after Tuareg fighters returned from Libya, where they fought for Moammar Gadhafi.
- The conflict has driven about 100,000 Malians to neighboring countries, internally displaced more than 90,000.
- Losses to Tuaregs prompted soldiers' coup in Bamako Thursday March 22.
The Council had immediately suspended Mali's AU membership after soldiers seized control in Bamako March 21. But AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping said at the time that the coup leaders would probably have six months to restore constitutional order before sanctions were imposed.
The move to quickly follow the ECOWAS sanctions is seen as a response to criticism of the slow AU reaction to uprisings last year in North Africa.
After Tuesday's meeting, Commissioner Lamamra told reporters he had received assurances that Mali's President Amadou Toumani Toure remains safe at an undisclosed location outside Bamako, and was in touch with Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara.
"I think he has contacts with a number of governments," he said. "He had contacts with President Allesane Dramane Ouattara over the phone, and I believe he is free, he is safe, and he is supportive of the decisions of the extraordinary summit of ECOWAS."
The 15-member ECOWAS, made up of Mali's West African neighbors held an emergency summit Monday impose an embargo, shut the country's borders and freeze its accounts with the regional central bank. The sanctions are expected to immediately squeeze Mali, which depends entirely on overland imports for its fuel supplies.