West African leaders are threatening further sanctions against Mali within weeks unless the country’s junta makes “concrete progress” toward holding democratic elections in February as promised.
The latest threat came Sunday after the regional bloc known as ECOWAS held a summit in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, amid mounting concern that Mali’s coup leader is failing to make sufficient election preparations.
ECOWAS commission president Jean-Claude Kassi Brou told reporters that the additional sanctions would be put in place starting Jan. 1.
The decision is the latest in a series of moves launched by the regional bloc to mount pressure on Mali’s transitional government to pave the way for a democratically elected president after a coup in August 2020.
Col. Assimi Goita then carried out a second coup in May, overthrowing the transitional president and prime minister. Goita was sworn in as interim president the following month, solidifying his grip on power.
ECOWAS has suspended Mali from the regional bloc, and it also slapped travel bans and asset freezes on members of the transitional government after junta leaders said last month they won’t be able to make the February deadline.
The junta claims the election is being threatened by Mali’s security woes. The country has struggled to contain an Islamic extremist insurgency since 2012.
A French-led military operation in 2013 forced the extremists from power in major towns across the north, but they have regrouped and continued to launch attacks against Malian soldiers and their allies.
Security concerns also have grown since France, the region’s former colonial power, announced that it plans to withdraw 2,000 troops by early next year.