By Paul Ejime
ECOWAS leaders have ended another emergency summit in Accra, Ghana, agreeing an extension of 12 to 16 months to the military transition programme in Mali.  
But according to the Communique of the summit held on Friday, the regional leaders also resolved to maintain the controversial blockade imposed on Mali in January after the Col Assimi Goita-led military junta announced a three-year delay to the earlier transition timetable.
The Communique made no reference to Thursday’s West African Court order suspending some sanctions against Mali by the eight-nation West African Economic and Monetary Union, UEMOA.
Members of UEMOA, mainly former French colonies in West Africa, also belong to ECOWAS.
The UEMOA Court ruling followed a suit filed by the Mali interim government, which called the UEMOA sanctions “illegal.”
The summit’s eight-page Communique rejected the new 24-month transition programme proposed by the Goita regime.
Col Goita had been invited to the Accra summit but responded that he could only attend virtually, an option not taken by the regional bloc.
His regime had reneged on the now-lapsed 18-month transition timetable, and it’s demand for additional three years prompted the ECOWAS and UEMOA sanctions, including economic/financial freeze, travel bans and border blockade.
Critics consider the punitive sanctions against Mali as disproportionate and excessive, especially with the French President Emmanuel Macron claiming that he was instrumental to their imposition.
Paris is opposed to the military cooperation between Russia and the Mali regime, resulting in Paris’ decision to pull French forces out of Mali and strained relations between both countries.
The Accra summit also gave the military junta in Guinea until 25th April to provide a democratic transition timetable or face economic and financial sanctions. 
Like in Mali, the military seized power in Guinea, but has yet to announce a transition programme.
The regional leaders also called on the military regime in Burkina Faso to free detained President Roc Marc Christian Kabore. 
The junta should also reduce to a “more acceptable timeline” by the 25th April, its proposed 36-month transition programme or face sanctions, the Communique said.
Military takeovers in the three countries, coupled with heightened insecurity and political instability in several nations have raised concerns about democratic regression in the region.
This has put ECOWAS’ reputation and relevance on the line.

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