Malitarians have taken to the streets en masse after the country’s government army called for protests against it severe penalties It was imposed by the West African Economic Community (ECOWAS) after the election was postponed.
Thousands of people wearing national colors of red, yellow and green gathered in a central square in the Mali capital on Friday at a rally organized by the military government.
People flocked to Bamako Independence Square, holding placards reading “Down with ECOWAS” and “Down with France” and singing patriotic songs.
Nicolas Haque of Al Jazeera in Senegal, near Dakar, said Friday’s protests had risen in thousands of people across the country.
People gathered “as an act to defy sanctions,” as well as “show support for Mali’s leadership,” Haque said.
The leaders of the ECOWAS 15-member bloc agreed to punish Mali last week by imposing a trade embargo and closing the land and air borders of its members to the country.
The move, which was later backed by the United States, the European Union and the former French colonial powers, followed the Mali army’s proposal to hold elections in December 2025 instead of what was initially agreed in February.
The military called the sanctions “extreme” and “non-existent” and called for demonstrations.
Colonel Assimi Goita, a powerful man who took power in a coup in August 2020, also called on the Malians to “defend our homeland.”
On Friday, his office said the caretaker government had developed a “response plan” for the harmful sanctions, without specifying details. He added that the government remains open to dialogue with regional institutions and does not intend to “fight for hands”.
According to Haque, the price of basic necessities such as rice has risen in the last two days since the sanctions were imposed.
“It will be increasingly difficult for the government to pay front-line officials and soldiers if it cannot get its funds from the regional central bank,” he said.
Government officials attended a rally in Bamako on Friday and were applauded by the crowd.
Nouhoum Sarr, a member of Mali’s transitional parliament, said that “our country will be saved and liberated by the Malian army and the entire people of Mali.”
“Assimi’s life,” Abdoulaye Yanoga said in a statement to the 27-year-old unemployed, referring to the Mali leader. “These sanctions will not be successful here.”
In addition to closing borders and imposing a trade embargo, ECOWAS leaders also halted financial aid to Mali and froze the country’s assets at the Central Bank of West African States.
Threats threaten to damage an already vulnerable economy in one of the world’s poorest countries. There has been a brutal armed uprising in Mali since 2012, with parts of the country’s vast territory out of government control.
Mali has already begun to feel the effects of the sanctions, as several airlines, including Air France, have suspended flights to Bamako.
The nation is also in danger of running out of money. West African Economic and Monetary Union Commissioner Kako Nubukpo has said it is “cut off from the rest of the world”.
The UN calls for an “acceptable” voting calendar
France, the former colonial power in Mali, also holds the rotating EU presidency, and the US has both spoken out in favor of ECOWAS sanctions.
EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrel said on Thursday that Brussels would follow ECOWAS in taking action against Mali due to the delayed elections.
On the same day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said: acceptable election calendar“.
Despite pressure, many in Mali have rallied behind the army and flooded nationalist messages on social media.
Mali’s relationship with neighbors and partners has been steadily deteriorating since Goita’s coup led in August 2020 against President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita. Under the threat of sanctions after the coup, Goita promised to hold presidential and legislative elections and to restore civilian rule by February 2022.
But he boarded de facto second shot In May 2021, he forced the interim civilian government and disrupted the calendar for the restoration of democracy. Goita was also named interim president.
His government has argued that Mali’s insecurity prevents it from holding safe elections by the end of February.
Friday’s mass protest received comments from French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.
“If the demonstration is safe enough, it is probably safe enough to vote,” the EU foreign minister said at a meeting in Brest, northwestern France.
France has thousands of troops fighting against armed groups in Mali and West African countries. “We are in Malin and we are staying, but not under any conditions,” Le Drian said.