June 20, 2024

West African nations lift sanctions on Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso amid plans to transition toward democracy

International troops supporting U.S. Army Africa’s Western Accord 16 raise their prospective flags during the exercise’s Opening Day Ceremony May 2, 2016 at Camp Zagre, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Western Accord 16 is an annual combined, joint exercise designed to increase the ability of African partner forces and the U.S. to exercise participants’ capability and capacity to conduct African Union/United Nation mandated Peace Operations. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Candace Mundt/Released)
International troops supporting U.S. Army Africa’s Western Accord 16 raise their prospective flags during the exercise’s Opening Day Ceremony May 2, 2016 at Camp Zagre, Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. Western Accord 16 is an annual combined, joint exercise designed to increase the ability of African partner forces and the U.S. to exercise participants’ capability and capacity to conduct African Union/United Nation mandated Peace Operations. (U.S. Army photo by Staff Sgt. Candace Mundt/Released)

West African leaders decided Sunday to lift all sanctions that had been placed on the military controlled nations of Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso. They met at a summit held in Accra, Ghana.

The summit of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) decided to lift financial and economic sanctions that had previously been placed on these junta-led nations. The decision was made in light of these countries’ public promises to transition toward democracy.

However, Mali, Guinea, and Burkina Faso will remain suspended from the regional bloc known as the Economic Community of West African States until elections are held.

Earlier this year, Mali announced a 24-month timetable starting in March 2022 for its transition to democracy. Colonel Assimi Goïta is Mali’s current acting president after the nation underwent two coup d’états in the past two years.

In September of 2021, Guinea’s special forces commander Mamady Doumbouya led a military coup d’état and announced the dissolution of the nation’s constitution and government before being sworn in as President. The junta-led transition council has promised a transition to democratic elections in the near future, though a specific date has yet to be determined.

In Burkina Faso, Paul-Henri Sandaogo Damiba overthrew the president via a January 2022 coup d’état. A charter has been adopted that will allow the military-led government to lead a three-year transition toward elections. However, future plans remain unclear.

While all three of these West African nations have expressed commitments to transitioning toward democratic elections, the current transitional period is of the utmost importance in fortifying the democratic future of these nations. They will likely rely on the support and cooperation of regional neighbors.

Instability continues in Mali

Last month, Amnesty International warned that thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes and many civilians have been killed amid increased fighting between Islamic State in the Greater Sahara (ISGS) and Malian armed forces and allied armed groups, as the conflict in northern Mali escalates.

The ISGS and two other armed groups signatories of the 2015 peace agreement, the MSA (Movement for the Salvation of Azawad) and GATIA (Imghad Tuareg Self-Defense Group and Allies), have been fighting in the Menaka Region since March 2022. The ISGS perpetrated attacks against villages, deliberately killing civilians and depriving them of their means of survival – which constitute war crimes. The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the city of Menaka has increased dramatically since then, plunging the region into a dire humanitarian situation.

“Thousands in the Menaka Region are fleeing from their homes as ISGS is deliberately targeting civilians, destroying homes and water points, and seizing livestock. The Islamic State must stop committing these war crimes and all parties to the conflict must respect international humanitarian law, including protecting civilians,” said Samira DAOUD, Amnesty International’s West and Central Africa Director.

An armed conflict has been raging in Mali since 2012 and is still ongoing despite the peace agreement signed in 2015 between Malian government and some armed groups. Attacks against civilians have increased along with ISGS offensives against the MSA and GATIA, two armed groups allied with the government, in the Menaka Region since January 2022. In May 2022, the ISGS renewed its onslaught against MSA main camps, taking over Emis-Emis, Igandou and Anderamboukane along the Niger border.

This comes as French soldiers of Operation Barkhane are withdrawing from Mali. The Barkhane camp in the city of Menaka was handed back to the Malian government on 13 June 2022 as part of their withdrawal from the country. As of June 2022, the Malian authorities were preparing another counter-offensive against the ISGS with support from allied armed groups. An offensive by the Malian army, GATIA and MSA against ISGS in Anderamboukane began on 4 June 2022 and is still ongoing.

Burkina Faso still a war zone

Human Rights Watch warned in May that armed Islamist groups and government security forces and militia in Burkina Faso were committing increased abuses against civilians as the conflict there intensifies and widens. The organization called on the Burkina Faso government, which took power in a January 2022 coup, to better protect civilians from attack and respect human rights.

Armed Islamist groups that began attacking Burkina Faso in 2016 have become increasingly abusive, carrying out hundreds of killings, summary executions, rapes of civilians, and widespread pillaging. Also since 2016, government security forces and militias engaged in counterterrorism operations have allegedly unlawfully killed hundreds of civilians and suspected Islamist fighters, fueling recruitment into armed groups. The fighting has forced 1.8 million people from their homes, most from the Sahel and Centre-Nord regions of the country.

“Armed Islamist groups are demonstrating day after day their profound disregard for the lives and livelihoods of civilians,” said Corinne Dufka, Sahel director at Human Rights Watch. “Government forces and associated militias must scrupulously uphold international human rights and humanitarian law and desist from killing in the name of security.”

Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments