He emphasised that the battle against terrorism in West Africa was a common fight and “it is an international situation that we have to look at in the context of a broad response.”
France’s military withdrawal from from Mali
France and its European partners announced last Thursday that they would begin a military withdrawal from Mali after nearly a decade fighting Jihadist insurgency, following the deterioration of relations with Mali’s new military regime, which disagreed with France’s call for an immediate return to civilian rule.
Relations between Mali and France have plummeted since the coup d’état staged by the military on May 25, 2021, which saw Junta leader Colonel Assimi Goïta attempting to reinforce military control despite international calls for a return to civilian rule.
Anti-French sentiment has been running high in Mali since that time, with the military junta spurring Malians to protest against international pressure, particularly from France, and sanctions by ECOWAS to get the military to relinquish its hold on the country.
The junta Friday asked France to withdraw its troops from the Sahel State without delay claiming the results of France’s nine-year military engagement in Mali were “not satisfactory.”
The European Union last month confirmed that the Malian military rulers had engaged the services of hundreds of foreign mercenaries to help the country fight jihadist insurgents.
“Based on precedents in other countries, it is our opinion that their presence will only aggravate the crisis and pose serious risks to human rights,” they added.
President Akufo-Addo in an interview with France 24 on the sidelines of the EU-African Union summit in Brussels, Belgium on Friday, said the bloc was displeased with the intervention of mercenary forces in Mali, stating ECOWAS was determined to resolve the political and security issues in the crisis-torn nation without the interference of foreign mercenaries.
ECOWAS, AU concerned
“Everybody is worried. We have a long-standing protocol within ECOWAS, AU, against foreign mercenaries intervening in the lives of our various states. So if there is a mercenary force in Mali, it is a matter that concerns us.
“You know the role foreign mercenaries have played in our history and it hasn’t been a positive one. (They should leave?) obviously, we would prefer to be dealing with the Mali State and government,” he said.
President Akufo-Addo said the bloc was considering other measures to get Mali to return to democratic governance since the junta had failed to adhere to transition agreements reached with ECOWAS.
He said the junta’s proposal of a four-year transition was “clearly unacceptable”, insisting that a 12-month transition period would be “an acceptable framework.”
The ECOWAS Chairman said the bloc would continue to dialogue with the military rulers in Mali to get the country back to democratic rule.
“In these matters the doors never close to talk and negotiation. There are contacts and dialogue going on. As far as we are concerned, there was an agreement between ECOWAS and the transition authorities at the beginning of August 2020, which required that the transition be brought to an end in February this year, at the end of this month.
“At the last minute, we heard from the new junta in Mali that they no longer were in a position to honour that pledge, that they were proposing a four or five years in office.
Why ECOWAS rejected the Malian proposal
“Some of us were aghast by this new development. I’m an elected President in Ghana. I have four years in office and an unelected illegitimate regime wants to be in office with the consent of ECOWAS for five years, it sounded outrageous. That is why the proposal was rejected,” he said.
“We are determined to work towards a more acceptable solution. My own feeling from talking to my peers is that a 12-month period would be an acceptable framework. You hearing it from my mouth doesn’t mean it is ECOWAS policy. We need to engage and find out how that can work out,” he said.
On the situation in Burkina Faso, President Akufo-Addo was hopeful that the country would return to constitutional rule soon because the military rulers had “moved very quickly” to engage in consultations.
He also advised the coup leaders in Guinea, which took power last September, to provide an acceptable transition timetable as soon as possible to avoid further sanctions