Mali military promises return to civilian rule in March 2024

Generals hope new offer will lead to lifting of sanctions were imposed after they reneged on an earlier promise to hold elections in February.

Mali coup leader Colonel Assimi Goita, in uniform with a yellow sash across his shoulder, at a ceremony where he became president.
Colonel Assimi Goita, who led the military coup in Mali is now offering a return to civilian rule in March 2024 [File: Imadou Keita/Reuters]

Mali’s military rulers have proposed the restoration of civilian rule in two years, following an August 2020 coup and a failure to meet an earlier deadline for elections that led to crippling sanctions.

Military leader Colonel Assimi Goita signed a decree read out on state television on Monday saying that “the duration of the transition is fixed at 24 months (from) March 26, 2022”.

The military seized power in an initial coup in August 2020 and failed to deliver on a promise to hold elections in February, prompting sanctions from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). Goita forced out an interim civilian government in May last year, taking over the presidency.

The military said Monday’s decree followed an “advanced stage of negotiations with ECOWAS” and Mali hoped sanctions would be lifted.

“The adoption of this decree is proof of the willingness of [Malian] authorities to dialogue with ECOWAS,” added a spokesperson who read out the decree.

ECOWAS did not immediately comment on the 24-month decree adopted on Monday.

The length of the transition has also caused a rift with Mali’s partners, including the United States and former colonial power France.

Maiga said the ECOWAS mediator on the crisis, former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan, and heads of state had been informed of the 24-month decree.

“We are hopeful … the sanctions will be lifted imminently,” he said, adding that an electoral timeline would follow.

West African heads of state met in Ghana’s capital Accra over the weekend to discuss the situation and agreed not to lift sanctions, which include border closures and restrictions on financial transactions, unless interim leaders proposed a shorter transition.

The leaders are expected to convene for another summit before July 3.

Military governments in neighbouring Burkina Faso and Guinea are also facing similar threats from ECOWAS for dragging their feet on democratic transitions.

Source: News Agencies