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Mali: Goodluck Jonathan-led ECOWAS delegation disagrees with Colonel Goïta over transition period

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has disagreed with the military junta of Colonel Goïta over the duration of the transition into civil government and a date for elections.

Mediator for the regional bloc, and former president of Nigeria (2010-2015 Goodluck Jonathan had been on a mission since Friday in Bamako and left on Sunday without reaching a compromising stand with the military government.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) ramped up sanctions on Mali after Goïta took over the government in August 2020. The regional body also activated its standby military force following the failure of transitional authorities in the country to organise elections.

The government of Mali, which has been under West African sanctions since January, says it has submitted a timetable for “elections with a 36-month (three-year) deadline for the transition,” but “this proposal was not accepted by the West African mediator,” according to a statement issued Sunday evening after Jonathan’s departure.

 The Mali War started in January 2012 between the northern and southern parts of Mali in Africa with several insurgent groups, Jihadist and separatist fighters with affiliations with Al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group  began fighting a campaign against the Malian government for independence or greater autonomy for northern Mali, which they called Azawad. The National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), an organization fighting to make this area of Mali an independent homeland for the Tuareg people, had taken control of the region by April 2012.

The government said it had proposed “a new deadline of 29 months,” which the junta leader, Colonel Assimi Goïta, “in a last-ditch effort to reach a realistic compromise (…) has reduced to 24 months.

But “this new deadline, which the Malian authorities consider unavoidable, did not meet with the approval of the mediator and his delegation, who remained in their position,” the government added.

The last proposal made by the junta to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), during the organization’s last summit on the issue in early February in Accra, was a four-year transition.

The regional organization had heavily sanctioned in January the junta of Colonel Goïta, brought to the head of Mali by a first coup d’état in August 2020 and enthroned president “of the transition” following a second putsch in May 2021.

These sanctions – closure of borders with ECOWAS countries, embargo on trade and financial transactions – punish the military’s plan to continue governing for several years, and their unfulfilled commitment to organize elections in February 2022 that would have brought back civilians to lead the country.

A technical committee of ECOWAS had proposed the organization of polls within 12 or 16 months, with the help of an Independent Electoral Management Authority (Aige), according to a document that AFP had consulted.

After the failure of talks with the junta, Mr. Jonathan “reiterated the commitment of ECOWAS to facilitate an agreement for the restoration of constitutional order” in Mali, in a statement issued Sunday evening by the ECOWAS commission.

He “reaffirmed his willingness to continue discussions with the Malian authorities in order to agree on an acceptable transition timetable,” the statement said.

“We are at the end of the mission in Bamako. If it is to say that we have agreed on a date for the end of the transition, I immediately say no,” a member of Jonathan’s delegation told newsmen on Sunday.

The West African mediator had called for a democratic transition “as soon as possible”, the day after the approval of a plan allowing the military junta to remain in power for five years.

Mali’s legislature, which has been controlled by the military since the August 2020 coup, endorsed a transition period of up to five years before elections are held on February 21.

In this poor, landlocked country in the heart of the Sahel, the political crisis goes hand in hand with a serious security crisis, which has been ongoing since the outbreak of independence and jihadist insurgencies in the north in 2012.

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Tunisia President Saied dares opposition, defends new constitution despite criticism

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Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has defended his proposed new constitution despite widespread criticism and protest by opposition figures, saying the the constitution when passed, would not restore authoritarian rule.

Most political parties and civil society groups have continued to oppose the constitution saying it was drawn up unilaterally by Saied’s allies whom he handpicked to do his bidding.

The critics have also questioned the legitimacy of the constitution with a referendum set for July 25 which they say would give Tunisians less than four weeks to decide on it with no minimum rate of participation for it to pass.

The head of the committee that prepared the first draft the constitution, Sadok Belaid, also criticised the version which Saied rewrote, saying the president’s version was “dangerous and paves the way for a disgraceful dictatorial regime.”

But while hitting back at the opposition and the wave of criticism that followed the publication of the draft in the Tunisian National Gazzete, Saied on Tuesday, urged the people to support it in the referendum to adopt the constitution.

In a letter addressed to Tunisian and published by state, Saied assured that fears by those against the new constitution are misplaced as there was no danger to Tunisians’ rights and freedoms.

“Everyone knows what Tunisia has suffered for decades, especially the last decade. They emptied state coffers. The poor got poorer, the corrupt got richer,” Said narrated, while accusing critics of the constitution of “slanders, far from reality”.

Saied entered the bad books of most opposition figures in the North African country when he ousted the elected parliament and set out to rule by decree which many had termed a coup.

He further angered many by dissolving the electoral commission and named a new body with himself as the head. Not done, Saied also sacked 57 judges last month, accusing them of supporting Islamists.

But his supporters say he is “standing up to elite forces whose bungling and corruption have condemned Tunisia to a decade of political paralysis and economic stagnation.”

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Sudan’s junta leader, General al-Burhan, promises to withdraw army from civilian government

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Leader of Sudan’s military junta, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, has promised he will withdraw the army from further participating in political discussions aimed at ushering in a transitional civilian government.

General al-Burhan made the promise on Monday following another week of violent anti-coup protests in the capital Khartoum and other major cities which led to the killing of over 10 protesters by overzealous security forces loyal to the military government.

The protests have become an almost weekly event since Gen al-Burhan staged a coup that ousted the civilian-led transitional government that followed the overthrow of longtime President Omar al-Bashir in 2019 was itself removed by a military coup in October 2021, and over 100 youths have been killed while several opposition figures have been arrested and clamped in detention.

But following last Thursday violence, which also saw at least 629 injured by security forces crackdown on the demonstrations and the worldwide condemnation that accompanied it, Gen. al-Burhan was forced to react by vowing to withdraw the army from government.

“The armed forces will not stand in the way of democratic transition or interfere in elections in which the Sudanese people choose who will govern them,” al-Burhan said in a televised address, while also affirming the military’s commitment to working towards a seamless transition to democracy.

Al-Burhan added that a new ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces would be created after the formation of the government and it will only be responsible for security and defence tasks and “related responsibilities” in agreement with the government.

The army’s withdrawal from the political talks is aimed at allowing the political groups to form the technocrat government, he said.

However, pro-democracy groups and the protest leaders are sceptical about al-Burhan keeping true to his promise, as they have repeatedly said they will not negotiate with the military, and have called for them to immediately hand the reins to a civilian government.

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