A military government that seized power in Burkina Faso last week has shown a willingness to work towards a return to constitutional order, leaders of West Africa’s regional bloc have said.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has asked the military to rapidly propose an election timetable, the president of the ECOWAS Commission said on Thursday.
The heads of state who met in Ghana’s capital Accra, said they regretted that another military government in neighbouring Mali has yet to present an acceptable path to return to constitutional order, which could lead to the easing of sanctions.
ECOWAS Commission President Jean Claude Kassi Brou told a news conference there was no need to impose more sanctions against the military that deposed Burkina Faso President Roch Marc Kabore.
“We have engaged them. And they have shown interest that they want to work with ECOWAS towards the restoration of constitutional order,” Brou said.
“Since they have shown the ability to work with ECOWAS, we can’t just impose the maximum sanctions,” he added.
Ghana President Nana Akufo-Addo said at the start of the summit that the coup in Mali was “contagious” and had set a dangerous trend that led to subsequent coups in the region.
“Let us address this dangerous trend collectively and decisively before it devastates the entire region,” Akufo-Addo said.
ECOWAS 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 deepening insecurity.
Mali’s August 2020 coup was followed by a second military coup there last May, one in Guinea last September, another in Burkina Faso last week and a failed coup in Guinea-Bissau on Tuesday.
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 ruling military failed to organise elections and proposed holding power until 2025.
On Wednesday, the Malian government warned of the risk of sanctions triggering a wider crisis, saying the restrictions imposed on it in January by ECOWAS prevented it from honouring its latest bond payments.
It says it has defaulted on more than $31m of bond payments because of the financial freeze.
An ECOWAS delegation met Burkina Faso coup leader Lieutenant Colonel Paul-Henri Damiba this week, who declared himself head of state and has not yet proposed a timeline for returning to constitutional order.
After seizing power, the army pledged on January 24 to re-establish “constitutional order” within a “reasonable time”.