France, the United States and Algeria put pressure on the military junta for a rapid return of civilians to power

France, the United States and Algeria added Tuesday, January 11 to the pressure exerted by West African states on the Malian junta to comply with the demand for a rapid return of civilians to power.

The junta is trying to rally the Malians around a patriotic speech and calls on them to demonstrate on Friday against the sanctions imposed by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The latter decreed on Sunday the closure of the borders with Mali and a commercial and financial embargo, harshly sanctioning the junta’s plan to continue to lead the country for several years.

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The effect of these retaliatory measures on the junta, but also on the population, adds to the uncertainty of the future in a country at the heart of Sahelian instability, the scene of two putschs since 2020.

President Emmanuel Macron assured that France and the European Union, of which his country holds the rotating presidency, supported the “Very clear and firm position” of ECOWAS facing “Drifts of the junta”. The Europeans are preparing to strengthen their sanctions in turn, he said. But a UN Security Council text supporting ECOWAS sanctions, proposed by France, was blocked Tuesday by Russia and China.

“Flight ahead of the junta”

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian on Tuesday accused the mercenaries of the Russian group Wagner of ” to support “ the junta in power in Mali under the guise of anti-jihadist struggle. “What is happening in Mali is a real headlong rush by the ruling junta which, in defiance of its commitments, wishes to confiscate power for years and deprive the Malian people of their democratic choices”, he added.

The United States also supports West African sanctions, said its ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, at a meeting of the Security Council.

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A period of five years, as requested by the colonels to hand over to civilians, “Prolongs the pain” Malians, plunged into a deep security and political crisis since the outbreak of independence and jihadist insurgencies in 2012, she stressed.

The Algerian neighbor, another essential ally, encouraged the Malian military to “A responsible and constructive attitude”. Algerian President Abdelmadjid Tebboune judges “Reasonable and justifiable a transition period of a firm duration of twelve to sixteen months”, said its services in a statement.

“Illegitimate, illegal and inhuman character”

The Malian authorities, for their part, are wrapped up in the defense of the homeland and its sovereignty, and urge people to rally. “The time has come for all Malians to come together without exclusivity to reaffirm our positions of principle and defend our homeland”, declared Monday evening in a speech to the nation Colonel Assimi Goïta, brought to the head of Mali by a first coup in August 2020 and enthroned president “Of the transition” following a second in May 2021.

Colonel Goïta and the government once again castigated the decisions of the ECOWAS, in “Illegitimate, illegal and inhuman character” according to the first.

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The embargo imposed by ECOWAS, excluding basic necessities, arouses fear of inflation and shortages in a poor and landlocked country, hit by violence of all kinds and the Covid-19 pandemic.

The government accused ECOWAS of letting itself “Instrumentalize by extra-regional powers”, a clear reference to certain international partners, including France, which is militarily engaged in the Sahel but with which relations have seriously deteriorated since 2020.

“A response plan”

Until Tuesday, very few voices were raised, in Mali itself, to criticize the junta. A coalition of Malian parties, the Cadre Exchange, broke this reservation by making the junta “The sole and unique responsibility” Sanctions.

Temporary or lasting test of strength, the junta’s intentions are unknown. “Mali remains open to dialogue with ECOWAS to find a consensus”, declared Colonel Goïta. But neither he nor the government have so far offered any prospect of an end to the crisis. On the contrary, the government has stated its intention to develop “A response plan”.

The colonels had pledged in 2020 to return control to civilians after eighteen months. They now say they are unable to meet the February 27, 2022 deadline for holding an election. They cite the persistent insecurity in the country and the need for prior reforms so that the elections do not suffer from contestation, like the previous ones.

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The World with AFP