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West African envoy in Mali with pre-summit message for junta

BAMAKO (AFP) – An envoy from West Africa’s regional bloc the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) was in Bamako yesterday to hand a message to Mali’s junta leader ahead of a key summit, AFP reporters saw.

ECOWAS, in a document dated Monday, had said Goodluck Johnson, a former president of Nigeria, would deliver a message to Colonel Assimi Goita, but did not reveal its contents.

The bloc’s leaders, at an extraordinary summit in Accra last Sunday, will decide how to respond to a revised timetable proposed by the junta for returning the poor Sahel country to civilian rule.

The army has ruled Mali since toppling its elected president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, in August 2020.

The junta initially committed to holding elections by the end of February 2022.

But on December 30, the military-dominated government proposed a transition period lasting between six months and five years, starting from January 1 2020.

Former Nigeria President Goodluck Jonathan. PHOTO: AFP

This would enable the authorities to “carry out structural institutional reforms and (organise) credible, fair and transparent elections,” it said.

ECOWAS has led the push for the earlier timetable to be upheld. At a summit on December 12, its leaders reiterated demands that the elections be held by February 27 as initially planned.

They maintained sanctions such as asset freezes and travel bans within the ECOWAS region against around 150 junta figures and their families, and threatened further “economic and
financial” measures.

After leading the August 2020 putsch, Goita staged a de-facto second coup in May 2021, forcing out an interim civilian government.

The junta has cited persistent insecurity in Mali’s restive north as its reason for postponing the elections.

Swathes of the country’s territory are out of the government’s control as groups affiliated with al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State attack civilians and soldiers.

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