The junta in power in Mali does not recognize the legitimacy of the sanctions taken by ECOWAS and WAEMU. Bamako could therefore reorient its alliances and emancipate itself from these institutions.

The Malian junta is reacting to the sanctions taken by ECOWAS and UEMOA which impose a closure of the borders and an embargo on the country. The Bamako authorities condemn these sanctions, denounce a stranglehold by “extraregional powers with ulterior motives” behind these decisions and have taken reciprocal measures against ECOWAS member countries.

A historic opening to the sub-region
Since its break with Senegal in 1960, Malian diplomacy has been based on close relations with its neighbors in the sub-region. Since the first regime of Amadou Toumani Touré in the early 1990s, Mali had made connection to West African ports a priority.

Ahmedou Ould Abdallah, Mauritanian diplomat and president of the Center for Strategy and Security in the Sahel Sahara (Centre4S) in Nouakchott, explains that “it is mainly under the presidency of Amadou Toumani Touré [dans les années 1990] that it had been decided to make the opening of the connection with all the neighbors a priority ”. He specifies that it was then “not only the Dakar-Bamako railway, which moreover no longer works, or the Abidjan-Bamako road: The military regime of ATT then, later its civilian regime, opened the country to all the ports in the region: Conakry, Lomé, near Accra and Cotonou, plus Nouakchott of course. So Mali is connected to all the ports in West Africa. ”

Determination of the Malian government
Since the coups d’état of August 2020 and March 2021, the situation has changed and the negotiations with Bamako are likely to be bitter, believes Ahmedou Ould Abdallah: “Faced with the determination of the Malian authorities, it is possible to think that the negotiation will be very hard or very long. It is a government that has shown that it has a line of conduct, some people talk about strategy. I don’t see them giving in overnight without negotiations. They seem to have connections, to have thought about it. ”

Ahmedou Ould Abdallah wonders if the new sanctions will not even bring water to the mill of those who would like Mali to emerge from the CFA franc zone, as it had done in the 1960s.

The effects on families
The ECOWAS embargo does not target food products and drugs. Despite everything, the sanctions risk hurting Malians who live off the local economy.

“When there are sanctions, it means rising prices, clandestine trade and lots of activity that does not help the populations but the speculators,” said Ahmedou Ould Abdallah. “We can hope for a quick solution for the economies of the sub-region but especially for the Malian population, in a landlocked country.”

The political opposition in Mali hopes that the sanctions will increase the pressure on the military to organize the elections.

Support of the population for the junta
Grit Lenz, coordinator of the organization Fokus Sahel, believes that, paradoxically, these sanctions could increase the popularity of the junta. According to her, “a majority of the Malian population supports the decision of the current authorities not to comply with the demands of ECOWAS and the international community and not to organize the elections quickly”.

“In my opinion,” she continues, “if there are any protests, they will rather be turned against ECOWAS and these sanctions risk reinforcing the anti-Western feeling which is already very strong in Mali. In terms of security and defense, Mali has already sealed new alliances with countries like Turkey and Russia and, in this area, it is not dependent on ECOWAS. ”

Bazoum stands out
Grit Lenz also underlines that all ECOWAS member states do not speak with one voice. She cites as proof the statements of the President of Niger, Mohamed Bazoum, who yesterday [09.01] distanced himself from the decision to close the borders, because this measure is not provided for in the statutes of ECOWAS.

Ahmedou Ould Abdallah thinks that the mobilization behind the Malian government will hold, but on condition that the sanctions are not maintained for too long.

He thus recalls that in the 1960s, the sanctions taken against Mali had caused large waves of emigration to Côte d’Ivoire or France. He hopes that the sanctions will therefore be regularly reassessed to adjust them to the degree of real cooperation of the Malian government, in order to spare civilians.

What about Germany in all of this?
The German organization Fokus Sahel also hopes that the new German government will put in place, vis-à-vis Mali, a policy more independent of France than that of the Merkel government, and that dialogue with civil society will be maintained. to support him during the transition.


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