ACCRA: The chairman of the Economic Community of West African States said on Thursday that a coup in Mali was “contagious” and had set a dangerous trend that led to subsequent coups in the region.
Mali’s August 2020 coup was followed by a second military coup in the West African nation last May, one in Guinea in September last year, a coup in Burkina Faso last week, and a failed coup in Guinea-Bissau on Tuesday.
“Let us address this dangerous trend collectively and decisively before it devastates the entire region,” said Akufo-Addo at the opening of a summit of West African leaders in Ghana’s capital Accra, to discuss the coup in Burkina Faso.
“This summit will focus on the emerging threats in our region that stem from the military’s interference in Mali and its contagious influence in Guinea and Burkina Faso,” he said.
ECOWAS has suspended Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso from the 15-nation bloc and imposed sanctions on Mali and Guinea, hitting Mali particularly hard last month after its junta failed to organize elections and proposed holding power until 2025.
Mali defaulted on more than $31 million of bond payments due to the financial freeze, it said on Wednesday.
But the regional bloc and its Western allies have found they have limited leverage to deter the surge in support for military leadership in West Africa’s Sahel region, driven largely by governments’ inability to contain a worsening insurgency.
An ECOWAS delegation was dispatched to Burkina Faso on Monday to meet with coup leader Lt. Col.Paul-Henri Damiba, who declared himself head of state and has not yet proposed a timeline for returning to constitutional order.
The delegation was expected to report back on the talks to other ECOWAS members.
In deciding whether to impose sanctions, ECOWAS leaders have to balance the credibility of their organization against the fragility of some of their states, especially in the Sahel.
Mali and Burkina Faso are in the throes of a nearly decade-old terrorist emergency that has claimed thousands of lives and forced at least one and a half million people from their homes.
Escalating political friction with the junta in Mali has driven Bamako closer to the Kremlin and cast a shadow over France’s anti-terrorist mission in the country.
On Wednesday, the Malian government warned of the risk of sanctions triggering a wider crisis.
It said the restrictions imposed on it in January by ECOWAS had prevented it from honoring its latest bond payments.