West African leaders decided on Sunday at an extraordinary summit to suspend Mali from the bodies of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) after a second coup in nine months by the poor Sahelian army, but stopped it again imposition of sanctions.
The putsch had sparked warnings of new sanctions and deep concerns about stability in the unstable Sahel region.
Ten regional heads of state and three foreign ministers attended the summit in the Ghanaian capital Accra, with former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan as mediator in the crisis.
“The suspension of ECOWAS will take effect immediately until the deadline of late February 2022, when they are expected to be handed over to a democratically elected government,” Ghanaian Foreign Minister Shirley Ayorkor Botchwey said after the meeting.
The final statement called for the immediate appointment of a new civilian prime minister and the formation of an “inclusive” government.
Mali’s new president, Colonel Assimi Goita, had arrived in the Ghanaian capital Accra on Saturday for preparatory talks.
Goita led the young army officers who overthrew Mali’s elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August last year for alleged corruption and his failure to quell a bloody jihadist uprising.
After the takeover, the military agreed to appoint civilians as interim president and prime minister under pressure from ECOWAS.
But on Monday, soldiers detained transitional President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane and released them on Thursday saying they had resigned.
The double arrests sparked a diplomatic uproar and marked Mali’s second apparent coup in a year.
Mali’s constitutional court on Friday completed Goita’s rise to full power by appointing him transitional president.
As the junta goes back on its earlier commitment to civilian political leaders, doubts have been raised about its other commitments, including a pledge to hold elections in early 2022.
The junta said this week that it would continue to respect that timetable, but added that it could be subject to change.
Five dead in new attack
ECOWAS issued sanctions against Mali after the August coup before being lifted when the transitional government was established.
The 15-country bloc had warned against re-imposing sanctions on the country, as had the United States and former colonial power France.
French leader Emmanuel Macron said in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche newspaper published on Sunday that Paris “could not stay on the side of a country where there is no longer any democratic legitimacy or transition”.
And he warned that France would withdraw its troops from Mali if the country under Goita’s leadership turns towards radical Islamism.
France has about 5,100 troops in the region under its anti-jihadist operation Barkhane, which includes five countries in the Sahel: Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger.
Also on Sunday, underscoring Mali’s chronic instability, suspected jihadists murdered four civilians and a police officer in southern Mali, a region previously largely spared the country’s Islamic unrest, a security official said on condition of anonymity.
The unidentified men attacked a checkpoint before dawn near the town of Bougouni, about 100 kilometers (60 miles) from Mali’s border with Ivory Coast and Guinea. A local legislator confirmed the attack.
Mali is one of the poorest countries in the world and previous ECOWAS sanctions have hit hard.