Mali Junta Urges Talks on Crisis After Bloc Imposes Sanctions
(Bloomberg) -- Mali’s military ruler said he’s open to talks with West Africa’s economic bloc about returning the nation to civilian rule and asked the group to reconsider sanctions imposed over his refusal to hold elections next month.
While the government regrets the “illegal, illegitimate and inhumane nature of certain decisions, Mali remains open to talks with the Economic Community of West African States to try and reach a consensus,” President Assimi Goita said in a statement broadcast on state television on Monday. “We’re asking Ecowas to reconsider the situation our country finds itself in and what’s in the best interest of the Malian people.”
Ecowas, as the 15-member regional bloc is known, on Sunday froze Malian assets at the region’s central bank and commercial lenders in member states, suspended non-essential financial transactions and ordered land borders be closed. The announcement came a week after the military-dominated government proposed a five-year transition period, in defiance of international pressure to prepare a return to civilian rule by holding a vote in February.
“We remain committed to a return to a normal, peaceful and secure constitutional order,” Goita said.
Mali is Africa’s third-biggest gold producer and companies including Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. and Vancouver’s B2Gold Corp. have operations in the country. Barrick said its mines have so far been unaffected by the sanctions and it has sufficient stocks and stores to continue operating normally.
Miners in Mali should prepare for “significant disruptions to their export routes and logistical supply lines” as long as Ecowas maintains its ban on trade and financial exchanges with the country, Verisk-Maplecroft analyst Alexandre Raymakers said in a note. “Considering the importance of the gold mining sector as a source of revenue for Bamako, we do not expect the bloc to provide any exemptions to miners.”
The situation in Mali is “very fluid” and the company is monitoring it closely, a spokesperson for Barrick, the world’s second-largest gold miner, said by email.
B2Gold is assessing supplies at its Fekola mine, Chief Executive Officer Clive Johnson said in an emailed response to questions. Gold shipments from its operations are expected to be unhindered and fuel supplies may continue passing through the border with Senegal, he said.
“We are also looking at alternative routings to bring in some critical supplies should that be necessary,” Johnson said. “Alternate routings maybe necessary for the movement of our personnel.”
The interim government of neighboring Guinea said its land and air borders with Mali would remain open. Guinea was suspended from the regional bloc following a military coup last year.
Mali’s government called for rallies and mass prayers across the country on Jan. 14, according to a separate statement.
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