West African states review post-coup sanctions at key summit

FILE PHOTO: Flags of ECOWAS member countries. /Getty Images
FILE PHOTO: Flags of ECOWAS member countries. /Getty Images

West African leaders on Sunday will weigh the future of sanctions imposed against three countries where the military have seized power, sparking concern for stability in one of the world’s most coup-prone regions.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has slapped tough economic and financial sanctions on Mali and less severe penalties on Burkina Faso and Guinea.

In a one-day summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra, ECOWAS will decide whether these measures should be maintained, strengthened or lifted.

At the core of their talks will be the bloc’s demand that the juntas set an early timetable for returning to their barracks.

Mali, a poor, landlocked country in the grip of a decade-long jihadist conflict, has been under a trade and financial embargo since January, a move that has badly strained its economy.

Burkina Faso — another Sahel country caught up in jihadist turmoil — and Guinea have so far only been suspended from the bodies of the 15-nation bloc.

The three states underwent four coups in 18 months: two in Mali in August 2020 and May 2021, one in Guinea in September 2021 and one in Burkina Faso in January this year.

Alarmed by the risk of contagion, ECOWAS has stepped up top-level meetings and piled pressure on military rulers to accelerate the return of civilian leadership.

On June 4, the bloc avoided ruling on sanctions and instead gave itself another month to negotiate.