Mali dialogue backs extending junta's mandate by five years

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Participants in the "National Conference on Refoundation", presented as the final phase of consultations prior to elections and a return of civilians to power in Mali, proposed Thursday in Bamako to extend the current transition from "six months to five years".

After successive coups in August 2020 and May 2021, Mali's ruling military had pledged, under pressure from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and part of the international community, to hand over power to civilians after presidential and legislative elections initially scheduled for February 2022.

But the junta, led by Colonel Assimi Goïta, had finally informed ECOWAS that it was unable to respect the agreed timetable and had asked the Assises nationales to draw up an electoral calendar.

In mid-December, ECOWAS reiterated its demand for elections on February 27 to return power to civilians and threatened the junta with new sanctions if the timetable was not met.

"The participants were in favor of extending the transition period in order to carry out the institutional reforms that will allow for credible, fair and transparent elections. The deadlines put forward vary from six months to five years," said a document read at the end of the conference, in the presence of Colonel Goïta.

Presented by the authorities as a crucial moment in the transition since the putsch of 2020, these meetings, which took place from Monday to Thursday in Bamako, were boycotted by many Malian organizations.

These consultations are supposed to produce recommendations for reforms to remedy the ills of the country caught in turmoil since the outbreak of independence and jihadist insurgencies in 2012.

The conference participants also recommended "developing new military partnerships with military powers" and "disbanding all militias and integrating them into the Malian army," the final report said.

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