By Paul Ejime
ECOWAS leaders have lifted the controversial economic and financial sanctions imposed in January on Mali following two military coups in that country.
Regional leaders at the end of their one-day summit in Accra, the Ghanaian capital on Sunda, also agreed to a revised 24-month timetable announced by the Col Assimi Goita-led Bamako junta for return to constitutional rule in Mali.
The junta had failed to respect a previous 18-month transition programme after Goita and his colleagues toppled the government of elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in the first coup in August 2020.
Goita staged another putsch against a transition administration in which he was vice president in May 2021, prompting the sanctions by ECOWAS.
Outgoing ECOWAS Commission President Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, who announced the summit decisions, said that Mali remained suspended from ECOWAS, while sanctions against junta officials and their families remain in place.
The ECOWAS Mediator on Mali, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has undertaken several peace missions to Bamako with limited progress,
The sanctions, including financial squeeze and border blockade were hurting ordinary Mali, amid humanitarian concerns and Mali defaulting on the servicing of its external debts.
An UEMOA regional Court had dismissed the sanctions as illegal, even as the junta circumvented the regional the ECOWAS measures with the support of neighbouring countries including Guinea.
Brou also announced that the ECOWAS has accepted the 24-month timeline given by the Lt.-Col Paul-Henri Damiba-led junta in Burkina Faso to return power to elected civilians after ousting elected President Marc Christian Kabore in a coup in September 2021.
The regional leaders also named Benin former President Yaya Boni as new ECOWAS Mediator on the Guinea crisis, replacing Dr Mohamed Ibn Chambas, former ECOWAS Commission President and Secretary General’s Representative and Head of the UN Office in West Africa and the Sahel.
Dr Chambas announced his resignation from the mediation role early on Sunday, citing a lack of cooperation by the Conakry junta led by Col Mamady Doumbouya.
The summit, however, rejected the 36-month transition programme announced by the junta and demanded a more “reasonable” time frame to return to the country’s constitutional rule.
The summit endorsed Guinea Bissau’s President Umaro Embalo as the new Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority for one year, taking over from summit host President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana.
Gambia’s Omar Alieu Touray was introduced as the new ECOWAS Commission President, replacing Brou, who has served for the past four years.
Brou moves to the Senegal-based Central Bank of West African States, BCEAO, as Governor.
The Touray management has its job cut out for it, including the unresolved political crises in the three military-controlled ECOWAS member-States.
The region also faces severe insecurity, political instability, health and food security challenges, and the retreat of democracy.