The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed the punishment this week after coup leaders postponed promised elections to restore civilian rule by four years.
Mali’s military government called for mass demonstrations against ECOWAS sanctions that were imposed after a special summit last Sunday in Accra.
ECOWAS said it would further sanction Mali if elections weren’t held on a previously agreed upon date of February 2022. In December, leaders proposed a much longer transition with the next elections held in 2026.
Because of the new sanctions, which included border closures and the blocking of shipments of goods, except for essentials, such as food and medicine, Mali reciprocally closed its borders to ECOWAS neighbors as well.
Much of the country has been out of the control of the state since Mali was plunged into conflict in 2012.
Modibo Dramé, a student at the University of Bamako who helped organize the demonstration, says that he supports the current military leaders for a period of five years, or even 10, because he thinks that is the only way Mali will finally see security.
“We want our country to have stability,” he said. “If ECOWAS wants to, we can do this together. If they don’t, we accept that — and we don’t stay together.”
In addition to Bamako, demonstrators gathered in major Malian cities like Gao and Timbuktu and in smaller towns across the country. The streets around Bamako’s independence monument were blocked to traffic, as thousands of people gathered by 3 P.M.Demonstrators could be seen carrying Malian and Russian flags
Sixty-year-old Abdrahman Fofana, a pharmacist, came to the demonstration to support the military leaders, who he said are the first in Mali’s history to be able to stand up against France.
“For us Malians, what’s missing in us?” Fofana said. “That we are united. We have this today thanks to the sanctions. We are united today. We will get through this. We are ready, even if it means death.”
Several political and religious organizations have issued statements denouncing the sanctions against Mali, including those that have rejected the transition’s 2026 elections proposal.
Etienne Fakaba Sissoko, a political and economic analyst and director of Mali’s Economic and Social Policy Analysis Research Center, echoed Fofana’s assertion that the sanctions have united Malians politically.
“We are Malian first, before being part of the opposition or part of the majority,” Sissoko said. “We know that the primary victims of these sanctions are not the authorities, but rather the population, who didn’t ask to be in this situation, This is why we see these as sanctions against the population more than sanctions against the country or against the current authorities. So this explains in part the support, the union, the cohesion around the transitional leaders that we have today.”
Malian President Assimi Goita said during a televised address on January 10 that he remains open to dialogue with ECOWAS to “find a consensus.”