Explainer: All That You Need To Know About the Crisis in Mali

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On Sunday 09 January 2022, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) sanctioned Mali due to delay in their election process, which will return the country to its democratic roots. This article gives more insight into the when, why and how of Mali’s latest crisis.

What is happening?

As of 9th January 2022, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had decided to close borders with Mali and impose sweeping economic sanctions in response to the delay of Mali’s elections to December 2025. The sanctions include the closure of members’ land and air borders with Mali, the suspension of non-essential financial transactions, and the freezing of Malian state assets in ECOWAS central and commercial banks. This was after a 2020 military coup by Colonel Assimi Goita to then-president, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. The following day, Goita announced the recall of its ambassadors in ECOWAS states and the closure of its borders in response to the latest sanctions. It has promised to take “all necessary measures to retaliate” against the measures, which it says will “affect populations already severely affected by the security crisis and the health crisis”.

What triggered this?

This all started in 2020 when the Malian Armed Forces (MAF) led by Colonel Assimi Goita ousted the then president of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita out of office. The protest was sparked by the outcome of a long-delayed parliamentary poll, but whose underlying causes include discontent over his handling of armed groups in Mali. The 75-year-old had been in power since 2013 and had served as Prime Minister from February 1994 to February 2000. A democratic election was agreed to be held in February 2022 by Mali’s transitional authorities, but on 09 January 2022, a proposal was given by these transitional authorities to shift the date from February 2022 to December 2025. According to them, this will ensure a better and more peaceful protest, which is better than speed. This was not taken lightly by ECOWAS, saying that it ‘simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage’, hence the sanctions.

What will happen next?

The government is now currently trying to pacify the situation by stating that it had made arrangements to ensure normal supplies “by all appropriate means” and called on the population to remain calm.

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