Mali suffocated by ECOWAS

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) continues the imperative demands to the military commanders supported by Malians who assended power by coup d’état, to ensure a “rapid” return of civilian rule. The Republic of Niger President Mahamadou Issoufou on September 7 at the opening of ‘a summit of the ECOWAS in Niamey once again has underlined the major request for a clear timetable, ensuring the transition of power to the civilans.

“It is the duty of our community to assist the Malians with a view to the rapid reestablishment of all democratic institutions. The military junta must help us to help Mali”, affirmed Mr. Issoufou, also current president of the ECOWAS.

“Other strategic partners of the Malian people have the same hope,” he insisted.

President Issoufou recalled that the ECOWAS had “taken sanctions and asked the military junta to return to the barracks (…) and the establishment of a transition, lasting a maximum of 12 months, led by civilians “.

However the talks conducted by the ECOWAS are not reduced to verbal promotion of the democratic demands, the regional orgainsation has decided to close all its borders with Mali and block all the economic and financial transactions, launching a total blockade of the landlocked country.

As consequence even Mali neighbours started to doubt the effectiness of this drastic measure of the West African politicians, causing immense damage to Malians, already being listed among the poorest nations in the world. In Ayorou, a Nigerien town close to the border, residents are worried about the consequences of this closure, Radio RFI reports.

The residents of Ayorou are seeing short, medium and long term damages of the ECOWAS blocade because exchanges with neighboring Mali are essential for the city, especially concerning the supply of food products for the large Sunday market.

“There are the foodstuffs that they export, there is also tea, sugar and pasta. So really, if the borders are closed, we can say that the prices of the products will increase” the inhabitants of Ayorou complain.

Another consequence for the locals in the closing of the borders is damaging the travel between the various family members on the outskirts of Mali.

“If I wanted to visit family in villages on the border, for example in Koutougou which is around or eight kilometers from the border, it is a problem because the police do not accept the passage of vehicles” the local residents explain.

However the major concern is in absence of clarity for the future, how long will this devastaing for local population strategy last. The food shortages among neighboring countries, depending on Mali exports, are just part of the problem caused by the ECOWAS borders shut down. Nowadays the situaiton of the Malian population enters a dramatic stage of food insecurity, which has been a considerable problem for the internaitonal community, attempting to assist and provide humanitarian aid for the population, ensuring their human rights, namely right to life.

Escalating violence and insecurity in Mali have sparked an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, rendering 3.9 million people in need of assistance and protection – an increase of 700,000 since the beginning of the year, the UN said in December 2019.

Mali has been the scene of perpetual conflict and displacement for nearly eight years, when in January 2012, tensions in the marginalized north came to a head as rebels took over almost one-third of the country. A peace agreement signed in 2015 between the complex web of warring groups, has failed in implementation.

The report notes that eight years after the onset of the political crisis that has destabilized Mali, “the international community remains heavily focused on stabilization and counterterrorism, at times to the detriment of the worsening humanitarian situation.”

While insurgent violence in the north rages on, anti-Government elements have spread south into central Mali, where they have inflamed intercommunal tensions.

Some 70% of the people affected live in the conflict regions of Mopti, Timbuktu and Gao.

Throughout the year, UN and humanitarian partners have assisted about 900,000 people with food assistance and in 2020, the Humanitarian Response Plan seeks $365.6 million to assist nearly three million in urgent need.

While the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) has restored some degreed of peace and government control there, the country’s northern and central regions remain trapped in cycles of violence.

The UN report (2019) has concluded that there is no purely military solution to the country’s crisis.

Although international humanitarian aid must be strengthened, Mali’s citizens also require a government willing and able to meet the needs of its people and address grievances at the root of the conflict while implementing the terms of the peace agreement in a timely and transparent fashion.

“The real war will be won by whoever wins over the population. And for now, the state is perceived to not even be trying”, said one of the UN representatives quoted in the report.

So fare the EU diplomacy has not expressed its position towards the ECOWAS strategy blocade of Mali trade, and finance.

“The decision to close borders by ECOWAS countries was undertaken on volonuraly basis” said the European Extenal Action Service spokesperson, while commenting on the issue.

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