ACCRA, Ghana (AP) – West African leaders attending a regional summit on Sunday lifted sanctions on three neighbors led by military governments that are now promising a return to democratic rule.
The Economic Community of West African States summit has decided to lift all economic and financial sanctions imposed on Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, although those countries remain excluded from the regional bloc, Jean-Claude Cassi Brau, an Ivorian politician, told ECOWAS Served as commission chairman.
The suspension of the three countries from ECOWAS will remain in effect until elections are held, he told reporters, with regional leaders urging development partners to resume aid to them.
In lifting restrictions, leaders attending the summit in Ghana’s capital, Accra, acknowledged a transitional roadmap by Malian officials who suggested scheduling presidential elections by March 2024.
ECOWAS severely restricted Mali in January, halting most trade with the country and closing its land and air borders with other countries in the bloc. The measures have paralyzed Mali’s economy and raised humanitarian concerns at the widespread suffering.
Military leaders in Guinea and Burkina Faso have also proposed separate transition periods that could eventually lead to elections. It is unclear when elections will take place there.
A wave of military coups began in August 2020 when Colonel Asimi Goita and other soldiers overthrew Mali’s democratically elected president. Nine months later he staged a second coup, deposed the country’s transitional civilian leader and assumed the presidency himself.
Rebel forces overthrew Guinea’s president in September 2021, and Burkina Faso’s leader Roch Marc Christian Cabore was overthrown in a January coup. Burkina Faso officials said Saturday the bodies under house arrest are now free.
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The political upheaval came as many observers were beginning to believe military takeovers were a thing of the past in an increasingly troubled region that also faces a growing threat from Islamist extremist fighters.
Some leaders speaking at the one-day Accra summit urged action as armed groups expand their presence in the region.
“These terrorist attacks are now not only concentrated in the Sahel, but are also spreading to the coastal states of our region,” said Ghana’s President Nana Akufo-Addo. It is imperative that we implement our regional counter-terrorism action plan and coordinate our various security initiatives.
According to Brau, in the first half of 2022, 1,600 extremist attacks on countries including Togo, Burkina Faso, Niger and Nigeria recorded a total of 3,500 deaths in the region.
In Burkina Faso, where attacks on Islamist extremist fighters are increasing, gunmen killed at least 55 people in the country’s northern Seno province last month.
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