Mali’s Military Government Expels West African Bloc Envoy

The Economic Community of West African states, known as ECOWAS, has been given 72 hours to leave Mali after the country’s transitional government denounced the regional bloc’s actions. ECOWAS special representative, Hamidou Boly, is now considered “persona non grata” and is being forced out of the country. AP News reports that Mali’s transitional leader, Col. Assimi Goïta, has said that ECOWAS’ actions were “incompatible with his [Boly’s] status,” after he was urged to uphold his promise to hold elections in February of 2022. However, according to AP News, Mali’s transitional government is still open to negotiating with ECOWAS about Mali’s political climate. 

AP News reports that Mali’s transitional government has not explained why Boly was barred from entering the country. However, Mali’s former Foreign Minister, Abdoulaye Diop, said that: “He is engaged with groups, individuals from civil society, from the world of politics and even from the world of the press, who undertake actions hostile to the transition and which are not in line with his mission.” Reuters reports that the foreign ministry followed up by saying that “Mali reiterates the willingness of the government to maintain dialogue with ECOWAS and to work together for the success of the transition.” M5-RFP, a political coalition that had a large part in establishing Mali’s current transitional government, made a statement also accusing Boly of supporting the ousted regime. “He is an enemy of Mali, he is against Mali, he is here to divide us and not to unite us,” an M5-RFP spokesperson said. According to Reuters, M5-RFP is calling on the government to withdraw from ECOWAS. 

ECOWAS is West Africa’s main political and economic block, according to Al Jazeera, and it must stay united and uncorrupted. Mali’s current stratocracy has been under fire to return political power to civilians, and it seems like the government expelling ECOWAS is a step away from that. Mali must experience ethical and fair elections as soon as possible for civilians to regain power and have a say in their country’s politics. Without elections, Mali might fall into a fully authoritarian regime that has no care for the standards of living of the populace. 

Al Jazeera reports that ECOWAS is urging Mali’s government to have elections in February following multiple coups that led to Goïta assuming power. President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta was forced out of his role after Goïta led a military coup in August 2020. The military enacted a civilian government after different countries threatened sanctions, but in May, Goïta overthrew those leaders in a second military coup. According to Reuters, Mali is being watched by many international powers, due to the region being destabilized by multiple military coups and Islamist militancy. The current administration has received condemnation from the international community during its rocky transition to democracy. 

Mali is in a period of instability and militaristic rule, and civilians must be able to freely and safely vote in an upcoming election. Without ECOWAS in the country, the transitional government does not have much oversight and it is possible that it will not hold elections in February as promised. The international community must work with Mali’s current leaders to not cause any more strife but also to hold them accountable.