West Africa’s main regional bloc says it is concerned that Mali’s transitional government has not made enough progress towards organizing elections early next year, as agreed after a military coup last year.
In a statement, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) said on Tuesday it remained “concerned about the lack of concrete action” to prepare for the vote, promised in February 2022 by the coup leader. and current interim president, Colonel Assimi Goita.
The announcement came at the end of a three-day mission to Mali led by former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan.
Mali’s transition to democracy following the ouster of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020 is being closely watched in a region that has experienced four coups since last year, the most recent in Guinea on Sunday.
Following the coup, Mali’s military leaders agreed, under pressure from ECOWAS, to an 18-month transition, culminating in presidential and legislative elections in February 2022.
They had also agreed to set October 31 as the date for holding a constitutional referendum.
But several election deadlines, including the start of voter list updates and the introduction of a new constitution, have not been met.
The transition suffered a further setback in May when Goita, who led the initial coup, ordered the arrest of the interim president and later took office himself.
“The mission recalled the importance of respecting the date of the announced elections to demonstrate the credibility of the transition process,” said the ECOWAS statement, which was read to journalists in the Malian capital, Bamako.
The Malian government has said it is aware of its commitment to the election deadline, but some officials have also suggested that it might not be respected.
“Technically, the timetable is not feasible, unless things are done carelessly, which will result in the usual post-election crises,” Bassirou Ben Doumbia, a political analyst, told Reuters news agency.
Keita’s ouster was largely precipitated by Mali’s security crisis, which has seen fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the ISIL group (ISIS) spread their influence across the north and center of the country.