Lifting, maintaining or tightening sanctions? West African leaders are meeting in Accra on Sunday to review their plan of action against the juntas that came to power by force in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso.
The leaders of the countries of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) must in particular decide on Mali, which has suffered since January 9 from severe commercial and financial retaliation measures and which recently accepted prerequisites essential for lifting them.
Burkina, another Sahelian country caught in the jihadist turmoil, and Guinea are currently only suspended from ECOWAS bodies. But the juntas in place intend to stay there for three years and expose their country to tougher sanctions.
For two years, West Africa has seen a succession of coups by colonels and lieutenant-colonels: putsch on August 18, 2020 in Bamako, new fait accompli completing the first on May 24, 2021, putsch on September 5, 2021 in Conakry, putsch on January 24, 2022 in Ouagadougou.
ECOWAS, alarmed at the risk of contagion in a vulnerable region, is increasing summits, mediations and pressure to accelerate the return of civilians to the leadership of these countries.
The last summit to date, June 4, had given birth to a mouse: no decision had been taken and ECOWAS had given itself one more month to negotiate.
The decision on the lifting of the embargo on commercial and financial transactions is eagerly awaited in Mali, exhausted by ten years of conflict, and where negotiations between the junta and ECOWAS have been going on for months.
Mediator Goodluck Jonathan, former president of Nigeria, came to Bamako last week. If nothing has officially filtered exchanges, a member of his entourage told AFP that “Mali has made enormous progress”.
The authorities announced on Wednesday an electoral calendar fixing the presidential election in February 2024, the constitutional referendum in March 2023, and the legislative elections between October and November 2023.
It completes the adoption on June 17 of a new electoral law and the establishment of a commission responsible for drafting the new Constitution.
A potential blocking point in the negotiations may nevertheless remain with the door now open, by the new electoral law, of a candidacy of a soldier in a presidential election.
The “acts that have been taken these days go in the direction of a lifting of these sanctions”, estimated Friday evening the head of Malian diplomacy Abdoulaye Diop.
Guinea this week waged an intense diplomatic campaign to appease West African leaders and avoid further sanctions.
The junta had aroused the ire of its neighbors by enacting a transition period of 36 months. A delay described as “unthinkable” by the Senegalese head of state Macky Sall, current president of the African Union.
“ECOWAS will have to take action,” he said.
Transitional Prime Minister Mohamed Béavogui received on Saturday the United Nations Special Representative for West Africa and the Sahel, Mahamat Saleh Annadif.
Guinea’s message is to reassure “the brothers of ECOWAS” on the country’s commitment to leading a peaceful and inclusive transition, the government stressed.
On Monday, the government also received the main political formations in order to initiate a dialogue. Several political movements have conditioned their participation on the appointment of a West African mediator.
“It seems fundamental to us that ECOWAS intervene to chair the dialogue and thus promote the return to constitutional order in Guinea,” the National Front for the Defense of the Constitution (FNDC) said on Friday.
In Burkina Faso, ECOWAS has appointed a mediator, the former Nigerien president Mahamadou Issoufou, despite his “concern” at the 36 months planned for the transition. “We are on the way to compromise” with this country, a diplomat from the sub-region told AFP.
On a visit to Ouagadougou on Saturday, Mr. Issoufou hailed the military’s “openness to dialogue” and said he had “discussed the chronogram (calendar) of the transition” presented to political leaders on Wednesday.
The Burkinabè authorities are planning the dates of December 24, 2024 for a constitutional referendum and February 25, 2025 for the holding of legislative and presidential elections.
On Friday, the parties of the former majority of the overthrown President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré denounced the agenda presented by the junta as a “solitary maneuver which contrasts with the imperatives of an inclusive and successful transition”, regretting “the absence upstream consultations”.