ABUJA, Dec 12 (Reuters) – West African regional bloc ECOWAS will consider additional economic sanctions on Mali if no concrete progress is made by the end of this month to prepare for fresh elections following a coup in August 2020, the group said on Sunday.
ECOWAS leaders want the junta in Mali to organise the elections by the end of February as promised, but the transitional administration has said the vote will likely be delayed by a few weeks or months due to security reasons.
“If by end of December 2021 no concrete progress is made in the preparation of the election, additional sanctions will be put in place starting 1st January 2022,” ECOWAS said in a communique after a summit of its leaders in Nigeria.
Mali’s transition is seen as a test of West African leaders’ commitment to protecting democracy against a return to the frequent putsches that earned the region its reputation as a “coup belt” in the decades after colonialism.
The ECOWAS leaders also expressed concern over the use of private security companies in Mali, saying this posed a risk to the region.
Reuters reported in September that Mali’s military junta was in discussions about deploying a Russian private military contractor in Mali, which France says is not acceptable because it has its own troops in the region.
On Guinea, the regional leaders said they were concerned that three months after a coup, there was no timetable for a return to constitutional order. ECOWAS also condemned recent attacks on security forces and civilians by militants in Burkina Faso and a deteriorating humanitarian situation in the region.