Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
President Muhammadu Buhari will today embark on a one-day visit to Bamako, the Malian capital, following the briefing he received from the ECOWAS Special Envoy to the country, former President Goodluck Jonathan on Tuesday.
The trip will be his first outside Nigeria in five months, in the wake of the onset of COVID-19 pandemic, which subsequently led to a global travel restriction to curb the spread of the virus. Nigeria recorded its first case of the disease on February 27.
Prior to today’s trip, the president’s last foreign travel was on February 7 when he left Nigeria to attend the 33rd Ordinary Session of Heads of States and Governments of the African Union (AU) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Before the Addis Ababa trip, Buhari had on January 17, travelled to London to participate in the UK-Africa summit which held on January 20, and convened by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, Boris Johnson.
A statement yesterday by Special Adviser to the President on Media and Publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, said Buhari and some ECOWAS leaders, led by the Chairman of the Authority of Heads of States and Governments of the sub-regional organisation, President Issoufou Mahamadou of Niger Republic, had agreed to meet in Mali for further consultations in order to find a political solution to the crisis in the country.
The Malian President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita and Presidents Macky Sall of Senegal, Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana and Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire, according to the statement, will also participate in the meeting.
Jonathan, accompanied by the President of ECOWAS Commission, Mr Jean-Claude Kassi Brou, had briefed the president on the political crisis rocking Mali on Tuesday, culminating in ECOWAS leaders’ decision to consolidate on the agreements reached by various parties.
“We will ask the president of Niger, who is the Chairman of ECOWAS to brief us as a group, and we will then know the way forward,” Buhari had told Jonathan.
The former president had been appointed as Special Envoy by ECOWAS to restore amity to Mali, which has been rocked by protests against the personality of Keita, who has spent only two out of the five years of his second term in office.
A resistance group in Mali, M5, had called for the dissolution of the country’s Constitutional Court as well as the president’s resignation, before peace could return to the country.
Crisis broke out in the country after the court nullified results of 31 parliamentary seats in the recently held polls and gave victory to some other contenders, resulting in the allegation by the resistance group that the judgment was influenced by the president.
During the riots of July 10 on the matter, some protesters were killed by security agents, resulting in escalation of the crisis, a situation that now necessitates ECOWAS’ intervention.