By Adedapo Adesanya
The African Union (AU) has suspended Mali as a member with immediate effect and has threatened to sanction the West African country following a second military coup in nine months.
The AU, through its Peace and Security Council, said in a statement that it “decides to immediately suspend the Republic of Mali from participation in all activities of the African Union, its organs and institutions, until normal constitutional order has been restored in the country.”
The AU then called on the military to “urgently and unconditionally return to the barracks and to refrain from further interference in the political processes in Mali”.
It warned that if the military did not hand back power to civilian transitional leaders that the council will not hesitate to impose targeted sanctions and other punitive measures.
Condemning the coup, the union said it was “deeply concerned about the evolving situation in Mali and its negative impact on the gains made thus far in the transition process in the country”.
The AU also called for the release of all political detainees, including the interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane who had been under house arrest since they were released from military detention after they were arrested last Monday in a coup led by vice-president, Mr Assimi Goïta.
Messrs Ndaw and Ouane were ousted from office barely nine months into their tenure as the head of a transitional government tasked with steering Mali back to civilian rule after a group of colonels, including Mr Goïta, toppled former elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keïta in August.
The move follows a similar suspension on Sunday from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).
Speaking after a meeting of the bloc, Ghana’s Foreign Minister, Mr Shirley Ayorkor Botchway said Mali’s suspension from ECOWAS takes immediate effect until the deadline of the end of February 2022, when the country’s interim leaders are supposed to hand over to a democratically elected government.
The bloc’s final communique also called for the immediate appointment of a new civilian prime minister and the formation of an “inclusive” government.
The West African nations bloc then pushed for Mali to transition to civilian rule under a previously agreed timetable.
Mali is among the world’s poorest countries and a previous ECOWAS sanction hit hard and in the eventuality of a renewed one, it would worsen the country’s economic situation.
The United Nations has called on the military to step down while the United States has already pulled its security force support.
France and the European Union have threatened sanctions.