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ECOWAS Lifts Harsh Sanctions Imposed On Mali

Mali's military junta leader, Captain Amadou Sanogo signs documents as the junta and the West African bloc ECOWAS announced a deal that includes the lifting of sanctions and an amnesty for those involved in last month's coup at the Kati military camp, nea

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has lifted harsh sanctions imposed on Mali after the declaring it was satisfied with the junta’s commitment to restore constitutional rule.

Sonny Ugoh, communications director for ECOWAS, said the regional block is convinced the military rulers will comply with an agreement to immediately step down and hand over power to a transitional government.

“There is movement in the direction of restoring constitutional governance, and the movement is sufficiently strong for the heads of state to determine that sanctions should be lifted,” said Ugoh.

“The paramount consideration for us is the insistence of regional leaders that they must restore constitutional government. There is a very strong commitment that convinces us that the junta is going to live by that commitment.”

As part of the agreement between the ECOWAS and the junta, former speaker of parliament Dioncounda Traore, who was in temporary exile, will serve as president of a transitional government until elections are held.

Coup-leader Captain Amadou Sanogo has said the military junta is stepping aside in return for amnesty and the lifting of the stiff fiscal and economic sanctions. The deal to end the March 22 coup was reached late Friday.

The interim president will “run the government for a period indicated in their constitution,” Ugoh said, “and then subsequently, we can have the electoral process that will eventually lead to the emergence of a president to succeed the former president.”

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on the junta to refrain from any activities that would undermine the agreement with ECOWAS.

Ugoh said Mr. Ban’s concerns are justified but adds that regional leaders maintain confidence in the junta’s commitment to relinquish power.

“We want to believe that the military junta can be trusted and on that basis we have lifted the sanctions,” said Ugoh. “It would be dangerous for them to renege on their commitment to ECOWAS because I can’t possibly see how a member state can live in isolation of its neighbors, particularly, against the background of the political, the economic and the financial sanctions.”

Ugoh said ECOWAS will soon make its decision known to the African Union, to enable the continental body to consider lifting its own set of sanctions on Mali.