The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has given the junta in charge of Mali one year to return the country to democracy.
The ultimatum by the 15-nation regional bloc was against the backdrop of reports that the military rulers in Mali are planning a three-year political transition programme.
ECOWAS position, reached at the end of an extra-ordinary summit of Heads of State and Government of the regional grouping held Friday in Abuja, was heavily backed by Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari,who urged the junta to set an acceptable time table for the country’s return to democracy.
Buhari, in virtual and third Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS on the socio-political crisis in Mali, said that Mali as a geo-political entity could not afford to stand alone in the sub-region.
His remarks were contained in a statement in Abuja by his spokesman, Mr Femi Adesina.
He said that the briefings by the Special Envoy, former President Goodluck Jonathan, clearly showed that the regional body’s engagements with Mali’s new military leadership had yet to achieve the desired results in several key areas.
“I am, however, personally happy to hear of the release from detention of the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who is reported to be in good condition.
”The disposition of the new leadership to free the remaining senior officials is noted, as this should contribute to the renewed sense of belonging to the Malian people.
“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 as well as the ECOWAS sub-region,” he said.
He added that the military leadership should be flexible in negotiations, by putting the interest of all Malians and the harmony of the sub-region into consideration.
“For the people of Mali, specifically the leadership, embracing democracy and good governance is crucial to the country’s political stability.
”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,” he said.
Buhari urge the military leadership to consider the immediate release of all the remaining senior government officials in detention without pre-conditions.
He also enjoined the junta to consider a transition process to be completed in not more than 12 months which should 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.
He further emphasised the need for Mali’s Constitutional Court to work hand in hand with all the Malian stakeholders to ensure an early and hitch-free return to democracy through free, fair and inclusive election.
“In this connection Nigeria will, alongside ECOWAS, provide necessary logistics support to facilitate the conduct of elections to re-establish democratic governance in Mali.
“As I conclude this intervention, let me thank once again, the Mediator, Dr Jonathan, as well as my colleagues in the sub-region, who have continued to demonstrate sincere commitment to the resolution of this crisis.
“Nigeria stands in solidarity with the good people of Mali,’’ the president said.
The Nigerian leader commended the Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic, for convening the extraordinary summit.
The president also condoled with Alassane Ouattara, President of Cote D’ivoire, on the loss of a close aide, Mamadi Diane.
Among the declarations adopted by the summit were that the transition government in Mali must be led by civilians, and that the return to constitutional order should be concluded within 12 months.
The 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.