Mali government urges protests against 'extreme' sanctions by West Africa bloc
Mali's army-dominated government has called for nationwide demonstrations on Friday against stringent sanctions imposed by the West Africa bloc ECOWAS over delayed elections.
The Sahel state's interim government stated Monday night that the sanctions -- which include border closures and a trade embargo -- are "extreme" and urged "the entire population and diaspora" to demonstrate against them on Friday.
Leaders from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) agreed to sanction Mali on Sunday, in a decision that was later backed by former colonial power France at the UN Security Council.
As well as closing borders and imposing a trade embargo, they also cut off financial aid to Mali and froze the country's assets at the Central Bank of West African States.
The move followed a proposal by Mali's interim government last month to stay in power for up to five years before staging elections -- despite international demands that it respect a promise to hold elections in February.
On Monday night, the interim government in Bamako stated that it would "develop a response plan to safeguard our sovereignty and preserve the integrity of our national territory."
Mali's relations with its neighbours and partners have steadily deteriorated since a coup led by Colonel Assimi Goita in August 2020 against president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
Under threat of sanctions following that putsch, Goita had promised to hold presidential and legislative elections, and to restore civilian rule by February 2022.
But he staged a de facto second coup in May 2021, forcing out an interim civilian government and disrupting the timetable to restore democracy.
Goita also declared himself interim president. His government has argued that rampant insecurity in Mali prevents it from organising safe elections by the end of February.
France intervened in Mali in 2013 after armed rebels seized control of the north the previous year. Since then, Paris has deployed thousands of troops across the Sahel region to purportedly combat violence.
But despite its military presence, violence has spread to central Mali and to neighbouring Burkina Faso and Niger.