HomeNewsWest African ECOWAS bloc studies Mali suspension

West African ECOWAS bloc studies Mali suspension

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ABIDJAN – Presidents from eight West African nations studied on Tuesday a possible suspension of Mali’s membership from the regional bloc ECOWAS to punish leaders of last week’s military coup.

Domestic and international pressure is mounting on the newly-installed junta to give up power in what was seen as one of West Africa’s strongest democracies, which is also facing a Tuareg rebellion in its desert north.

“We will need today to adopt a common position without equivocation on the political and military double-crisis in Mali,” Ivory Coast President and current ECOWAS head Alassane Ouattara said before talks in the Ivorian port Abidjan.

“Our position must consist of a series of actions to take quickly. This position must also be a signal to Africa and the world that ECOWAS can address its problems and make decisions to reinforce stability, cohesion and unity.”

An ECOWAS source said it was likely leaders would agree to suspend Mali from the grouping – a largely symbolic measure intended to highlight the region’s rejection of the coup. Other options include so-called targeted sanctions – travel bans or asset freezes – on individual coup leaders.

Presidents from Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Togo, Liberia, Niger, and Sierra Leone were also present. Goodluck Jonathan, president of regional military and economic powerhouse Nigeria, was absent, attending a nuclear conference in South Korea.

Soldiers ousted Mali President Amadou Toumani Toure last Wednesday after a mutiny sparked by soaring frustration in the army over the government’s handling of a Tuareg rebellion in the desert north, where the military has faced a series of setbacks.

The army has complained it lacks the supplies and equipment needed to properly beat back the rebels, who have been reinforced by fighters and weapons from Libya’s war.

The coup risks derailing an election in Africa’s third-largest gold miner scheduled for April in which Toure, in power since 2002, had no intention to run.

In the capital Bamako, the coup has sparked an anti-junta political and civil society movement, which has promised to pressure the junta to restore constitutional order through measures that may include a general strike.

Following a similar European Union move, the United States said on Monday it would suspend some aid to Mali after last week’s coup, estimating $60-70 million may be affected, but stressed it would maintain food and humanitarian assistance.

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