The new measures of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) represent a significant hardening of its position vis-à-vis Mali, whose interim authorities have proposed to hold elections in December 2025 in in February, as initially agreed with the bloc.
In a statement released after an emergency summit in Ghana’s capital Accra, ECOWAS said it found the proposed timetable for a return to constitutional rule totally unacceptable.
This timetable “simply means that an illegitimate transitional military government will take the Malian people hostage,” added ECOWAS.
The organization said it had agreed to impose additional sanctions with immediate effect. These included the closure of members’ land and air borders with Mali, the suspension of non-essential financial transactions, the freezing of the Malian state’s assets in ECOWAS commercial banks and the recall of their ambassadors from Bamako.
Meanwhile, the UEMOA regional monetary union has called on all financial institutions under its umbrella to suspend Mali with immediate effect, thereby cutting off the country’s access to regional financial markets.
The Malian interim government said it was surprised by these decisions. In response, he pledged to close his side of the border with ECOWAS member states, recall his ambassadors and reserve the right to reconsider his membership in ECOWAS and UEMOA.
“The government strongly condemns these illegal and illegitimate sanctions,” he said in a statement read on state television by spokesman Abdoulaye Maiga in the early hours of Monday, calling on Malians to remain calm.
They previously attributed the delay in elections in part to the challenge of organizing a democratically solid vote amid a violent Islamist insurgency.
ECOWAS harsher response reflects pressure on the organization to show that it can protect democracy from a rollback to military rule after West and Central Africa suffers four strokes of state in 18 months.
The new measures will only be gradually lifted after the finalization of an acceptable electoral timetable and progress in its implementation, ECOWAS said.
Under previous sanctions, Mali’s membership in ECOWAS is suspended and members of the transitional authority and their families are subject to travel bans and asset freezes.
Immediately after Keita’s ouster, ECOWAS temporarily closed its borders with Mali and halted financial flows – short-term sanctions that caused a sharp drop in imports to the landlocked country.
The political upheavals in Mali have also heightened tensions with the former colonial power, France, which has deployed thousands of troops in the Sahel region of West Africa to fight Islamist insurgents.