West African court orders suspension of Mali sanctions

Friday March 25 2022

People take to the streets in Malian capital Bamako to protest perceived interference by France and its Western allies following sanctions by Ecowas. PHOTO | AFP


A West African court ordered Thursday the suspension of sanctions imposed on Mali over delayed elections, in a rare diplomatic win for the country's ruling junta.

The court of the West African Economic and Monetary Union (Uemoa) issued the ruling on the eve of a regional summit on Mali, which is under pressure to restore democracy rule after a military coup in 2020. 

After the junta proposed staying in power for up to five years, Uemoa and the West Africa bloc Ecowas slapped economic and diplomatic sanctions on the Sahel state in January.

The eight-nation Uemoa said it endorsed measures taken by the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which included the freezing of financial assets and sanctioning leading junta members. 

It also announced that it would back any subsequent measures taken by the 15-nation Ecowas bloc -- of which all Uemoa countries are members. 

Ecowas leaders then announced border closures with Mali and imposed a trade embargo on the nation of 21 million people. 


It was unclear if the Uemoa court's suspension ruling would lead to the immediate lifting of the sanctions.

Mali's junta views the sanctions as illegal and vowed in January to challenge them in international courts. 

According to the court ruling seen by AFP, Malian government lawyers petitioned the Uemoa court to cancel what they argued are illegal sanctions. Separately, they also asked the court to suspend the sanctions.     

The court ruled in favour of suspension, citing "well founded" legal arguments as well as the damaging economic impact of the sanctions. 

Extraordinary summit 

One of the world's poorest countries, Mali has over the past decade been wracked by a jihadist insurgency. 

Vast swathes of the country are in thrall to myriad rebel groups and militias, and thousands of soldiers and civilians have been killed in the conflict.

In August 2020, rebel military officers deposed elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, after angry protests at the failure to stem jihadist attacks and clamp down on corruption. 

The junta, led by Colonel Assimi Goita, sparked international anger after reneging on a promise to stage elections in February this year. 

The move contributed to the regional sanctions and also sent relations with former colonial power France into a nosedive. 

Paris intervened militarily in Mali in 2013, but announced a troop withdrawal last month.

The decision of the Uemoa court comes as Ecowas leaders are due to gather in Ghana's capital, Accra, on Friday for an extraordinary summit focusing on Mali. 

Bamako has said it will not send a ministerial delegation.

Ecowas is pushing the junta to stage elections within 12 to 16 months.