Mali Neighbors Uphold Sanctions to Force Junta Handover

West African leaders will keep trade restrictions on Mali in place until the military junta that overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in an Aug. 18 coup takes steps to install a civilian transition government.

“The summit decided to maintain the sanctions which will be lifted gradually based on the evolution of the discussions with the Malian group, the National Committee for the Salvation of the People,” Burkina Faso Foreign Affairs Minister Alpha Barry told journalists Friday after a meeting of the Economic Community of West African States.

The summit also called for the key actors in Mali, such as politicians, the constitutional court and civil society, to be included in transition talks to build “a consensus,” he said.

Ecowas, which has suspended all trade with Mali, has led mediation efforts to restore a democratic regime following last week’s coup. Keita, 75, dissolved his government and resigned under pressure from soldiers who detained him hours after staging a mutiny. The deposed leader was first elected to office in 2013, just over a year after his predecessor, Amadou Toumani Toure, was himself ousted in a coup.

“These measures are meant to rid Mali of the scourge of military coups,” Niger President Mahamoudou Issoufou, who currently heads the bloc, said in closing remarks after Friday’s virtual meeting.

One of the coup leaders, Malick Diaw, traveled to neighboring Burkina Faso on Thursday to lobby that nation’s president ahead of the summit, Ouagadougou-based Radio Omega reported. The junta initially sought to remain in power until 2023, when Keita’s mandate was due to expire, before suggesting a two-year transition; Ecowas insisted on a return to democratic rule within a year.

The transition must be led by a civilian president who won’t be eligible to run for office at the next election, the bloc said Friday. It also acknowledged the resignation of Keita, moved late Wednesday night from the barracks to his home, where he remains under guard, in an apparent gesture of goodwill. His prime minister, Boubou Cisse, and the president of the National Assembly were also released from the barracks.

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