Ecowas threatens sanctions on Mali

2012-03-28 12:04

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Dakar - The Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) will send a military delegation on Wednesday to Mali, threatening to impose sanctions on the country unless democratic order is re-established.

The move comes just hours after the bloc suspended Mali following a coup by soldiers last week. The West African grouping said soldiers were on the ready in case military intervention was required.

Alhaji Muhammad Mumuni, Ghana's minister of foreign affairs, said after the Ecowas meet in Abidjan, Ivory Coast that the grouping had condemned the coup in "strong and unequivocal terms and demanded a return to democracy in Mali".

The mutineers argue that the government of President Amadou Toumani Toure had proven incompetent, particularly on the issue of putting down an ongoing Tuareg insurgency in the country's north.

Toure's whereabouts are still unknown, though reports say he is being protected on a military base by loyalist elite soldiers.

The president - a former army officer - was due to step down next month, as his term was coming to a close and elections were already scheduled.

Several ministers have been arrested by the coup leaders and their soldiers.

The first Ecowas delegation to head to Mali for a three-day trip will consist of chiefs of defence staff from at least five West African nations. They are expected to be followed by several heads of state by the end of the week.

Travel ban

The delegations are also expected to press the Tuareg rebels fighting for autonomy to stand down, amid concerns that the combination of a coup and a rebellion could be disastrous for the landlocked country.

Ecowas spokesperson Sonny Ugoh said the bloc is seriously considering sanctions against the coup leader.

"One of the prospects that they discussed is the possibility of a travel ban on members of the junta. We want to make them as uncomfortable as possible. We want to demonstrate to them that there can be no reward for this kind of behavior," Ugoh was quoted as saying in media reports.

In a region prone to coups, Ecowas was hoping to send a message to others that seizing power illegally was not acceptable, Ugoh added.

Observers noted that, as yet, the grouping has not taken any steps against banking transactions in the country - a move that could seriously hamstring the mutineers.

Following the Ecowas announcement, the coup leaders in Mali said they would enact constitutional reforms and promised to hold elections, but set no date.

- SAPA
Read more on:    ecowas  |  amadou toumani toure  |  mali  |  west africa  |  coup
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