•Unhappy engagements with junta yet to achieve desired results
By Omololu Ogunmade
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday in Abuja demanded for an acceptable timetable from the military junta in Mali for a return to democracy, warning that the country could not afford to stand alone in the sub-region.
This came as ECOWAS’ leaders restated their resolutions, demanding for the composition of a transition government in Mali, led by civilians, as well as the return of the country to constitutional government within the next 12 months.
The demands of both Buhari and ECOWAS were made at a virtual Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS Heads of States and Governments on the socio-political crisis rocking Mali.
According to a statement by the president’s media adviser, Femi Adesina, Buhari harped on briefings by ECOWAS’ Special Envoy, former President Goodluck Jonathan, saying it showed that the regional body’s engagements with the new military leadership in Mali were yet to achieve the desired results in several key areas.
However, the president was swift to add that he was happy to hear the news of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita’s release from detention, adding that the preparedness of the military rulers to free other detainees is welcome.
He said Nigeria’s position is that the new rulers yield to other areas of negotiations and appreciate the threat their action poses to their fragile country.
“With regards to other areas being negotiated, Nigeria believes that the people of Mali and the military leaders need to appreciate the fragility of their country and the imminent danger which it poses to the citizens of Mali, as well as the ECOWAS sub-region,” the president said.
Buhari tasked the military leadership to drop its rigid posture during negotiations by putting the interest of all Malians and the harmony of the sub-region into consideration.
The statement added that “Malian military was also encouraged to focus on securing the country, faced with severe security threats from its northern part, instead of an incursion into governance.”
He also admonished the people of Mali to note that democracy and good governance were crucial to their country’s stability, as he proceeded to list other demands of ECOWAS from the coupists.
According to him, acceding to such demands is their highway to enjoying cooperation and collaboration from ECOWAS and consequent easing of sanctions imposed on Mali.
“Mali cannot therefore afford to stand alone, hence the need to come to terms with the realities of an acceptable and workable transition compact that inspires the confidence of all Malians.
“Meanwhile, I urge the military leadership to consider: the immediate release of all the remaining senior government officials in detention, without pre-conditions; a transition process, to be completed in not more than 12 months, and which shall include the representatives of Malian stakeholders.
“This is a critical consideration for the new government to enjoy the cooperation and collaboration of regional and international community, and to allow the easing of sanctions imposed on Mali,” he added.
The president reiterated the need for Mali’s Constitutional Court to cooperate with all stakeholders in the country with a view to ensuring quick and hitch-free return to a democratically elected government through free, fair and inclusive polls.
When this is done, Buhari said, Nigeria and ECOWAS would be willing to provide necessary logistics that would aid the conduct of the polls.
He thanked Jonathan and other ECOWAS leaders, whom he said had shown commitment to amicable resolution of the crisis, assuring Malians of Nigeria’s solidarity with them.
The statement also said Buhari commended the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of States and Governments, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic, for convening yesterday’s extraordinary summit.
It also said the president condoled with Alassane Ouattara, President of Cote D’ivoire, on the loss of one of his close aides, Mamadi Diane.