West African leaders oppose extension of Malian junta

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) – Regional leaders in West Africa said on Sunday they would oppose an attempt by the Malian coup to extend his tenure by four years instead of holding democratic elections next month as initially promised.

The regional bloc known as ECOWAS had called for a special meeting in Ghana’s capital after Malian authorities released a schedule a week ago that postponed the presidential vote until 2026. The junta led by the Colonel Assimi Goita had initially agreed to hold a new election at the end of February, 18 months after his first takeover.

It was not immediately clear whether the West African leaders meeting in the Ghanaian capital would further toughen existing sanctions against the leaders of the coup in Mali. The bloc has already put in place travel bans and a freeze on the financial assets of all members of the transitional authority and their families.

In his remarks on Sunday, the Burkinabé president said that the proposed extension of the junta’s mandate “concerned the entire West African region”.

“As much as we are aware of the complexity of the situation in this country, we are equally convinced that all political, economic and social reforms aimed at rebuilding Mali can only be carried out by democratically elected authorities”, declared the Burkinabé president. Roch Marc. Christian Kabore, who is also the current president of the West African Economic and Monetary Union.

After overthrowing the democratically elected Malian president, the coup leader Goita promised to quickly bring the country back to democratic rule. Doubts grew over his intentions, however, after he effectively launched a second coup nine months later, forcing selected transitional civilian leaders to step down and become president himself.

The Malian junta maintains the elections cannot take place due to worsening insecurity across the country, where Islamic extremists have been fighting an insurgency for a decade. They also say it is essential to draft a new constitution and submit it to voters in a referendum, a long-term job that would pave the way for new local and legislative elections before any presidential vote.

They initially proposed a five-year extension, but West African leaders said a new document sent on Friday revises that to four years in total.

The French army, which helped oust militants from power in northern Mali in 2013, is now in the process of reducing its troop presence in Mali. Many fear that their departure will only worsen the crisis despite the presence of UN peacekeepers and regional forces which are stepping up the efforts of Malian troops.

Critics of the junta fear that political unrest will further undermine the Malian military’s response to attacks by Islamic extremists at a time when they will increasingly bear the responsibility for fighting militants.

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Krista Larson reported from Dakar, Senegal.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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