Mali urges West African monetary union to lift sanctions

Mali’s military government asks the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) to remove sanctions as economic fallout from the measures builds.
ECOWAS leaders at the 4th Extraordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government on the Political Situation in Mali in Accra, Ghana, on 9 January 2021.

Mali’s military government urged the West African Monetary and Economic Union (UEMOA) to lift sanctions on Monday, warning that the measures would have “severe consequences” for the country.

In a statement, the government slammed the sanctions as “disproportionate, inhumane, illegitimate and illegal” and accused UEMOA of failing to formally notify the country that it was applying the measures.

“The Malian government urges UEMOA to comply with community rules and therefore to lift, in a spirit of justice, equity and solidarity, these inappropriate sanctions which will have severe, inevitable socio-economic consequences for the populations of Mali and of the West African sub-region,” the government said.

The 15 member Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and UEMOA imposed the sanctions on January 9 after military leaders failed to hold elections according to an agreed roadmap following a coup in 2020.

Under the sanctions, Malian assets held by the Senegal-based Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO) were frozen.

The statement came after Mali’s finance ministry blamed the sanctions for a $31m in bond default last week. Mali’s minister of economy and finance, Alousseni Sanou, said that the missed payments on two bonds on January 28 would be paid when the sanctions were lifted.

“Because of these restrictions and despite there being sufficient funds in Mali’s public treasury, the central bank didn’t make the payments,” he said.

Mali failed to repay 15.6 billion CFA francs ($26.6 million) in payments on a treasury bond that matured on Jan. 31, UMOA-Titres, the debt agency of West Africa’s monetary union told investors on Wednesday.

“It is notable that this payment incident occurs in a context where the state of Mali is subject to sanctions,” it said.

Mounting troubles

The European Union targeted five senior figures of Mali’s new military regime, including the prime minister Choguel Maiga, with a fresh round of sanctions on Thursday.

“The five designated people are subject to a travel ban, which prevents them from entering or transiting through EU territories, and an asset freeze,” a tweet from EU states said.

“These individuals, which include prominent members of the Malian Transition Government, are responsible for actions that obstruct and undermine the successful completion of Mali’s political transition,” it added.

A demonstrator holds a sign reading “Down with ECOWAS” during a mass demonstration in Bamako on January 14, 2022.

Tougher sanctions

Mali’s interim president, Colonel Assimi Goita, has led two military coups in nine months.

Sanctions were originally imposed in August 2020 after the first coup overthrew President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta, following months of street protests and years of instability.

ECOWAS relaxed sanctions in October 2020 after the Transition Plan for a return to civilian rule within 18 months was drawn up, naming a new transitional government.

However, in May 2021, Goita staged a second coup. ECOWAS decided to impose limited sanctions in December (including freezes on bank accounts and limits on the freedom of movement of coup leaders), but moved to impose full sanctions again on 9 January after the military regime announced that elections might not take place before 2025.

ECOWAS leaders said the new calendar would be tantamount to “tak[ing] the Malian people hostage for five years.”

The sanctions demand:

  • The immediate recall of ECOWAS ambassadors from Mali.
  • Closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Mali.
  • Suspension of all commercial and financial transactions with Mali except for food, pharmaceutical and medical products, petroleum products and electricity.
  • The freezing of Mali’s assets in ECOWAS central banks and commercial banks and suspension of Mali from all financial assistance and transactions with all financial institutions, particularly the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) and Banque Ouest-Africaine de Développement (BOAD).

The statement instructs all ECOWAS institutions to implement the sanctions with immediate effect and calls upon the UN, the AU and other partners to support them.

ECOWAS leaders at the 4th Extraordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government on the Political Situation in Mali in Accra, Ghana, on 9 January 2021.