The leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are meeting at a highly anticipated summit in Accra, Ghana, on Sunday to decide on sanctions against Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso, three countries that have suffered coups.
The West African leaders, who intend to push for a swift return of civilians to power, will consider the tough trade and financial retaliation measures imposed on Mali since January, and the lesser ones on Burkina Faso and Guinea.
Mali bled dry by a conflict that has lasted for more than a decade and is facing an embargo on trade and financial transactions, except for basic necessities.
Burkina, another Sahelian country caught up in the jihadist turmoil, and Guinea are for the time being only suspended from ECOWAS bodies. But the juntas in power intend to remain there for three years and expose their country to tougher sanctions.
Bitter negotiations have been underway for months between the military junta in Mali and ECOWAS, but so far they have not led to a compromise.
The last summit, on 4 June, gave birth to a mouse: no decision was taken on sanctions against the coup regimes, and ECOWAS gave itself another month to negotiate and agree on whether to lift or maintain sanctions.
In the meantime, the mediator Goodluck Jonathan, former president of Nigeria, came to Bamako on Friday to meet with the military authorities. Although nothing has officially emerged from the talks, a member of his entourage told AFP that "Mali has made enormous progress".
Even if there are still "some adjustments to be made", the Malian junta "is doing a good job", he added.
The authorities announced on Wednesday an electoral calendar setting the presidential election for February 2024, the constitutional referendum for March 2023, and the legislative elections between October and November 2023.
A potential sticking point in the negotiations may nevertheless remain in the door now open, by the new electoral law, for a military candidate to run in a presidential election.
In Bamako, however, Sunday's summit brings hope, ", especially with the approach of Tabaski (the West African name for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha)" at the end of next week, smiles a livestock seller. The sanctions have had a major impact on the Malian economy, which has already suffered from ten years of conflict.