ECOWAS warns Mali’s progress towards February polls insufficient

Regional bloc says it feared potential delays in elections aimed at restoring civilian rule in Mali following last year’s coup.

This image taken from video shows Mali's interim president Assimi Goita, centre, as he waves to supporters after Eid al-Adha prayers at The Grande Mosque in Bamako on July 20, 2021, following an attack during prayers by armed men [File: Malick Konate/ AFP]

West Africa’s main regional bloc says it is concerned Mali’s transitional government has not made sufficient progress towards organising elections early next year, as agreed after a military coup last year.

In a statement, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Tuesday that it remained “worried by the lack of concrete action” to prepare for the vote, which has been promised for February 2022 by coup leader and current interim President Colonel Assimi Goita.

The announcement came at the end of a three-day mission to Mali led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.

Mali’s transition back to democracy following the August 2020 overthrow of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita is being closely watched in a region that has experienced four coups since last year, most recently in Guinea on Sunday.

After the coup, Mali’s military leaders agreed, under pressure from ECOWAS, to an 18-month transition, culminating in presidential and legislative elections in February 2022.

They had also agreed to set October 31 as a date for holding a constitutional referendum.

But various electoral deadlines, including the start of updates to voter rolls and the presentation of a new constitution, have not been met.

The transition was dealt a further setback in May when Goita, who led the initial coup, ordered the arrest of the interim president and then took over the role himself.

“The mission recalled the importance of respecting the date of the announced elections in order to demonstrate the credibility of the transition process,” said the ECOWAS statement, which was read out to journalists in Mali’s capital, Bamako.

Mali’s government has said it is conscious of its commitment to the electoral deadline, but some officials have also suggested it might not be respected.

“Technically, the timeline is not feasible, unless things are done sloppily, resulting in the usual post-electoral crises,” Bassirou Ben Doumbia, a political analyst, told the Reuters news agency.

Keita’s overthrow was largely precipitated by Mali’s security crisis, which has seen fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL (ISIS) group extend their influence across the north and centre of the country.

Source: News Agencies