BAMAKO, Mali ( Associated Press) — Mali’s ruling junta on Monday condemned new economic sanctions imposed by West African regional leaders after a coup leader announced plans to delay new elections by four years.
The new measures, adding to the pressure on Col Asimi Goita, include the immediate confiscation of Mali’s assets at the regional central bank. Flights to 14 other countries in the regional block known as ECOWAS have also been suspended.
West African leaders who met on Sunday in Ghana’s capital also said they had activated the ECOWAS standby military force, signaling the danger of military intervention if the junta in Mali continues to defy international calls for democratic elections. gives.
In late night news broadcasts on state TV, a spokesman for the Malian government said it learned of the decision “stupidly”.
“The government of Mali strongly condemns these illegal and illegitimate sanctions,” said Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga, spokesman for the transitional government led by coup leader Goita.
The junta had agreed to hold a new election in late February, 18 months after first seizing power. The military leadership now says the next presidential election will not take place until 2026, giving Goita four more years in power.
In a statement, regional leaders called the deadline “totally unacceptable” and said it “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Mali people hostage during the next five years.”
Commercial restrictions will not apply to essential items such as medicine, and medical supplies and equipment to fight COVID-19. Petroleum products and electricity have also been excluded, the regional bloc said.
But all Mali’s financial assets in the regional bloc’s central bank and commercial banks will be blocked. Previous sanctions had only targeted the junta leadership, with a travel ban and asset freeze.
After the overthrow of Mali’s democratically elected president, Goita promised to swiftly return the country to democratic rule. Doubts about his intentions deepened, however, effectively launching a second coup nine months later, forcing elected transitional civilian leaders and becoming president himself.
Mali’s government says elections cannot be held because of deep insecurity across the country where Islamist extremists have been fighting the insurgency for a decade. They also say it is necessary to draft a new constitution and put it before voters in a referendum, a lengthy effort that will pave the way for new local and legislative elections before any presidential vote.
The French military, which helped topple militants from power in northern Mali in 2013, is now in the process of reducing its military presence in Mali. Many fear his departure will deepen the crisis despite the presence of UN peacekeepers and regional forces who are fueling the efforts of Mali troops.
Critics of the junta fear the political turmoil will further undermine the Mali military’s response to Islamic extremist attacks, when they are taking responsibility for fighting the militants.
Associated Press writer Krista Larsson contributed in Dakar, Senegal.