West Africa’s mediator for Mali has given a positive message about the country’s return to civilian rule after a military coup in 2020 initiated a deep political crisis.
Former Nigerian president Goodluck Jonathan, appointed by the West African bloc ECOWAS, made the remarks in Bamako late Tuesday ahead of a summit this weekend.
“We are quite comfortable with what is going on, the transition program is going on well,” Jonathan told reporters after talks with junta chief Colonel Assimi Goita and other leaders.
“There are some few areas that there were issues, but we have been reassured that all these issues will not affect the transition program and the government is totally committed and that’s what we want and that’s also what ECOWAS leaders will be happy to hear,” he said, without elaborating.
ECOWAS – the Economic Community of West African States – is leading international pressure for Mali’s military to return to their barracks.
After a first coup in August 2020, the junta acceded to demands to hold elections within 18 months.
But this promise was swept away after a second coup was carried out the following May.
Tensions rose after the junta, in January this year, said it would stay in power for up to five years – a stance that triggered an ECOWAS trade and financial embargo.
The military ultimately accepted a deadline for stepping down by March 2024.
ECOWAS lifted the embargo in July but maintained individual sanctions against dozens of members of the junta, or their associates.
The country remains suspended from ECOWAS’s decision-making bodies.
The summit taking place this Sunday in the Nigerian capital Abuja will also look at a dispute between Mali and Ivory Coast triggered by the detention of 46 Ivorian troops arrested at Bamako airport in July.
Mali has accused the soldiers of being mercenaries – a charge angrily rejected by Ivory Coast, which says they were sent there as backup for the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali.
ECOWAS decided at a summit in September to send a high-level delegation to Mali to try to defuse the row, but there has been no sign of progress.
Since then, Ivory Coast has announced, without explanation, that it will withdraw its contingent from the UN force.
Mali is in the throes of a decade-long extremist crisis that has claimed thousands of lives and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes.
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