West African bloc may lift Mali sanctions soon, says envoy

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BAMAKO, MALI - AUGUST 24: ECOWAS mediator, former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan at the press conference after leading talks with Western African envoys and the military junta CNSP that forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita's resignation and the governments disbanding last week on August 24, 2020 in Bamako, Mali. Three-day talks in Mali between junta and West African leaders following last weeks coup aimed at resolving the country's political future have ended without agreement. (Photo by John Kalapo/Getty Images)
BAMAKO, MALI – AUGUST 24: ECOWAS mediator, former President of Nigeria, Goodluck Jonathan at the press conference after leading talks with Western African envoys and the military junta CNSP that forced President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s resignation and the governments disbanding last week on August 24, 2020 in Bamako, Mali. Three-day talks in Mali between junta and West African leaders following last weeks coup aimed at resolving the country’s political future have ended without agreement. (Photo by John Kalapo/Getty Images)

West African leaders may lift painful economic sanctions against Mali once an interim president is inaugurated on Friday in the wake of the August 18 military coup, the bloc’s envoy said, praising the junta’s leadership, Reuters reported. 

The comments suggest the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) could accept the candidates picked this week to lead the transition of power, although they do not have the fully civilian background the bloc had demanded.

The easing of sanctions would be a relief for Mali, whose imports have slumped 30% since its neighbours closed borders and halted financial flows after the ouster of President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita.

“I am very happy with what is happening now in Mali. The young soldiers who have taken power are doing a job in line with what the (ECOWAS) leaders wanted,” said Nigeria’s former president, Goodluck Jonathan, after landing in Bamako for talks as head of a delegation from the bloc.

It had not previously been clear if ECOWAS would agree with Monday’s nomination of former defence minister and retired colonel Bah Ndaw as interim president, particularly as the leader of the junta that seized power, Colonel Assimi Goita, is set to be vice president.

But Jonathan told journalists: “I hope that after the inauguration of the president on Friday the sanctions will be lifted.”

International powers feared the coup could further destabilise the country and undermine a joint fight against Islamist insurgents there and in the wider Sahel region.

Underscoring the insecurity, three Malian soldiers were killed on Wednesday when militants ambushed their patrol in Mopti region near the border with Burkina Faso, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Malian Council of Shippers said the country faced economic crisis if the ECOWAS sanctions were not eased.

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