DAKAR (Reuters) - Leaders of the 15-state West African bloc ECOWAS have decided to impose diplomatic, trade and financial sanctions on Mali’s junta with immediate effect, Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said after a regional summit on Monday.
Ouattara told reporters the leaders would apply the previously announced sanctions - which include a crippling closure of the land-locked country’s borders - to put pressure on leaders of last month’s coup to return power to civilians.
“All the diplomatic, economic, financial and other measures will be applied from today and will remain in place until constitutional order is re-established,” Ouattara said after the talks in the Senegalese capital Dakar.
The launch of the sanctions came despite a promise by junta leader Amadou Sanogo on Sunday to reinstate the former Malian constitution and all institutions of state. But his pledge met scepticism, with one senior ECOWAS official dismissing it as an attempt to buy time.
The closure of borders will suffocate the economy of Africa’s third biggest gold miner by cutting it off from the imported fuel on which it depends.
Mali will also be starved of funds from the regional BCEAO central bank which manages the money supply in the West African zone, while individual members of the junta will face travel bans and assets freezes.
Similar economic and personal sanctions were applied to former Ivorian leader Laurent Gbagbo after he refused to step down following defeat in a November 2010 election won by Ouattara, who finally came to power after a four-month conflict.
The coup by disgruntled soldiers nearly two weeks ago was intended to give the army more power to smash a northern rebellion, but it backfired by emboldening the rebels to seize the three main towns of the north in the past 72 hours.
“We call on the armed groups to halt their advance towards the south,” Ouattara said. He said ECOWAS military chiefs would discuss later this week to “activate” a standby ECOWAS military force but gave no detail on when and how it would be deployed.