Mali's military government on Monday responded to West African sanctions by closing its borders and withdrawing ambassadors from nations imposing the penalties. Regional bloc ECOWAS imposed the new sanctions Sunday, after Mali’s military leaders postponed promised February elections.
In a communique following a summit in Ghana Sunday, leaders of the 15 ECOWAS countries effectively severed economic and diplomatic ties with Mali.
The countries said they are withdrawing all ambassadors and closing land and air transit points with landlocked Mali because they said the military’s proposed five-year transition plan is unacceptable.
International relations and security expert Adam Bonaa has lauded ECOWAS for taking strong action to enforce its charter.
“The military, I keep saying, have no business in governance. If you want to govern, resign from being a military leader, put yourself up to be elected, campaign, spend resources and tell the people what you want to do. If they vote you into power, so be it, and if they don’t want you, keep trying. Let’s not allow this type of impunity to fester on or come back again,” he said.
Bonaa also called on France to respect the authority of ECOWAS and stay away from possibly interfering in Malian affairs.
“France has not taken its hands off Francophone West Africa. And for me this is something we should be looking out for, hoping that France would not interfere and make it look like ECOWAS cannot do anything. If they stay away from this, I don’t see how long the military leaders in Mali will survive from these particular sanctions,” Bonaa said.
In an address on Malian state television, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, a spokesman for the military authorities condemned the ECOWAS sanctions as “illegal and illegitimate." He said the military government will also retaliate by recalling ambassadors accredited to ECOWAS member states.
"ECOWAS has ulterior motives. The junta deplores the inhumane nature of these measures which affect populations already severely affected by the security crisis and the health crisis. The government wishes to reassure the nation that arrangements have been made to ensure the normal supply of goods and services,” Maiga said.
Innocent Badasu, an expert on regional issues, believes ECOWAS’ approach is not the best. Instead, he said, the bloc should aim at winning the goodwill of the people of Mali and the trust of the coup leaders in order to restore constitutional rule.
“There must be an honest dialogue to win the trust of the Malian military leaders. Trust that will allow them to begin to think that their personal security is not at risk and that they can successfully hand over to a civilian rule and still have a life that they don’t need to be worried about,” Badasu said.
For the moment, Mali's ECOWAS membership is suspended and members of the transitional authority and their relatives are subject to asset freezes and travel bans.