Deposed Malian President, Amadou Toumani Traore
By Chineme Okafor
The Authorities of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have asked member states with common boundaries with Mali to close their borders and seaports if the Malian coup leaders refused to restore constitutional order in the country.
ECOWAS’s directive on further sanctions on the military junta and Mali was contained in a communiqué issued at the end of an emergency mini-summit of its Heads of States and Government in Abidjan, Cote d’Ivoire on the Malian crisis which was assuming new dimensions with the capture of a key northern town in the country by the Taureg rebels on Thursday.
The communiqué which was made available by the ECOWAS Commission in Abuja stated that the renewed directive on further sanctions would take effect from tomorrow if the Malian junta refused to facilitate the immediate restoration of constitutional order in the country.
The statement read in parts: “In fulfilment of its mission, the delegation set out for Bamako today, 29 March 2012, but could not land at the Bamako airport for security reasons as a result of chaos provoked by demonstrators at the airport. The Heads of State, therefore, returned to Abidjan to hold an emergency meeting.
"The Heads of State took note of the reports of the President of the ECOWAS Commission, the Foreign Ministers, and the Chiefs of Defence Staff, who had just returned from Bamako after their meetings with the Comité National de Redressement pour la Démocratie et la Restauration de l‘Etat (CNRDRE).”
The communiqué further explained that the regional economic bloc had decided to impose strict economic, political, diplomatic and financial sanctions on Mali.
“In application of these decisions, and after consultation and accord of all ECOWAS Heads of State and Government, Authority hereby adopts the following sanctions against Mali: Suspend the membership of Mali from ECOWAS, recall all ECOWAS ambassadors accredited to the Republic of Mali for consultation, impose a travel ban on members of the CNRDRE and their associates within the ECOWAS space, close all borders of ECOWAS member states with Mali, except for humanitarian purposes.
"Freeze the assets of the leaders of CNRDRE and their associates in ECOWAS member states; deny Mali access to seaports of ECOWAS member states, freeze the accounts of Mali held at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO), deny the procurement of funds from BCEAO to accounts held by the Malian state in private banks,” the communiqué read.
It also sought to freeze all financial assistance to Mali through the West African Bank for Development (BOAD) and the ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) as well as suspension of Mali from participating in all sporting and cultural events in the ECOWAS space.
ECOWAS also invited the African Union (AU) to reinforce its own sanctions against the CNRDRE and its associates, and to bring the ECOWAS sanctions to the attention of the Secretary-General of the United Nations.
Caption: Captain Amadou Sanogo, Malian Coup leader
... As Rebels Close-in on Gao
Less than 24 hours after gaining stranglehold over the city of Kidal, rebels in Mali — comprising secessionist nomad Tuaregs and local Islamists — have entered Gao and are on the verge of completely taking it over.
This leaves them with the historic trading city of Timbuktu as the last of the three main regional centres in the north left to be conquered.
Kidal’s seizure and Gao’s closing-in have come within a day of a distress call by Mali’s military junta, which on Friday morning appealed for international help in the “critical” task of overpowering the surge of Tuareg rebels in the north.
“Our army needs the help of Mali's friends to save the civilian population and the Mali's territorial integrity,” Captain Amadou Sanogo, leader of the junta had pleaded during a news conference in the capital city of Bamako.
Saturday, scores of truckload of rebels entered Gao with heavy arms in a move that again validates the counter-productivity of last week’s military coup for an army supposedly protesting deposed president, Amadou Toumani Traore’s handling of the crisis.
The rebels are reported to have hoisted their Azawad flags while entering it, shouting “God is Great” in Arabic, amid the firing of heavy weapons.
In the wake of the impending loss of the entire north to the Tuaregs, Mali’s military junta, already tottering on the brink of severe travel and economic sanctions from neighbouring African countries, has delegated three of its members to hold talks in Ouagadougou with Burkina Faso president, Blaise Compaore, named by West African leaders as the main mediator in the crisis.
Mali’s neighbours, under the aegis of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), had on Thursday issued a 72-hour ultimatum for the junta to return power to the democratic government of President Toure, which was scheduled to give way this year after the conduct of elections in April.
“The following sanctions were agreed and shall be implemented within 72 hours by Monday, April 2, 2012 at the latest," ECOWAS commission president, Desire Kadre Ouedraogo had said, referring to “the closure of the gold producer's borders for all but humanitarian goods; the freezing of Mali's account at the central bank of the West African franc zone and restrictions on its negotiations with private banks in the region; an asset freeze and travel ban on individual junta members.”
Meanwhile, the ousted president has extinguished growing tension over his welfare by announcing that he is safe in an undisclosed location in the landlocked country.