PARIS/BAMAKO, Jan 10 (Reuters) - Airlines from neighboring
countries and former colonial ruler France canceled flights to
Mali on Monday, helping isolate a military junta under regional
sanctions for trying to extend its hold on power.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), on
Sunday agreed https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/mali-eyes-elections-four-years-west-african-bloc-mulls-sanctions-2022-01-09
a raft of restrictions against Mali, including the suspension
of financial transactions, over the interim authorities' failure
to hold democratic elections next month as agreed after a 2020
Neighbors also said they would close road and air borders.
Ivory Coast's national carrier Air Cote d'Ivoire halted flights
to the Malian capital Bamako on Monday. Flights from Senegal
were also disrupted, according to a Reuters reporter trying to
Air France had also canceled flights, an airline
spokesperson said, because of security risks, without providing
further detail. The head of Mali's airports, Lassina Togola,
said in a statement that Air France flights on Monday were
canceled but not suspended long term.
Assimi Goita, Mali's current leader and one of several
colonels who overthrew President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita in
August 2020, called for calm in a statement on Monday, adding
that Mali had the means to withstand the latest sanctions.
Goita, who staged a second coup in May 2021 when he pushed
aside the interim president to take the job for himself, said
that his government remains open to further negotiations with
the regional bloc.
Another military spokesperson had previously condemned the
sanctions as illegal and illegitimate.
This is the toughest stance ECOWAS has taken on Mali since
it implemented similar measures in the immediate aftermath of
President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita's ouster in August 2020.
Those sanctions, which caused a sharp drop in imports to the
landlocked country, were lifted inside two months after the
authorities promised an 18-month transition to civilian rule.
Guinea's transitional authorities said on Monday that they
were not associated with ECOWAS's decision to sanction Mali, and
that their shared border will remain open. The bloc suspended
Guinea's membership in September after its own military coup.
The bloc hopes renewed economic pressure, including cutting
Mali off from regional financial markets and trade of
non-essential goods, will push Bamako to rethink the latest
proposal to delay presidential and legislative elections to
December 2025 - nearly four years after they were supposed to be
The Malian government has promised it will try to ensure a
normal supply of goods to the public, but sanctions are likely
to further hobble the economy in one of the world's poorest
countries where an Islamist insurgency rages, fueled in part by
Barrick Gold, which owns Mali's biggest gold mine complex
Loulo-Gounkoto, said on Monday its mines in the country have
"thus far not been affected" by the ECOWAS sanctions.
Gold miners Hummingbird Resources and Cora
, which also have operations in Mali, said they were
monitoring the situation in the wake of the sanctions decision.
Washington on Monday said it backed the sanctions move and
shared concerns over the likely destabilizing impact of
Russia-backed Wagner group forces.
"The United States commends the strong actions taken by the
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in defense of
democracy and stability in Mali," State Department spokesperson
Ned Price said in a statement.
Mali's political upheaval has deepened tensions with France,
which has thousands of soldiers deployed across West Africa's
Sahel region to battle the insurgents.
For now, some residents in Bamako shrugged off the
sanctions, saying they supported the government's strategy. "We
cannot be independent without suffering, we have to accept
suffering," said electronics store owner Aboubacar Yalcouye.
(Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Tiemoko Diallo and Idrissa
Additional reporting by Cheick Diouara, Fadimata Kontao, Helen
Reid and Costas Pitas; Writing by Sudip Kar-Gupta and Alessandra
Prentice, Editing by Edward McAllister, William Maclean, Grant
McCool and Sandra Maler)