By John Ikani
Mali’s military rulers on Monday announced that they would delay the West African nation transition to democracy until March 2024.
The commencement of the two-year timeline is set from March of this year. This means it will be 2024 before the country can return to civilian rule.
Junta leader Colonel Assimi Goita signed a decree read out on state television saying that “the duration of the transition is fixed at 24 months (from) March 26, 2022”.
The transitional government spokesman Abdoulaye Maiga who read the decree said it followed an “advanced stage of negotiations with ECOWAS” and Mali hoped sanctions would be lifted.
“The adoption of this decree is proof of the willingness of (Malian) authorities to dialogue with ECOWAS,” he added.
The country’s military leadership had earlier promised to hold elections in February, but later proposed a five-year election timeline.
The lack of new elections caused a rift with France, which began withdrawing its forces from Mali earlier this year. It also prompted sanctions from regional body ECOWAS.
West African heads of state met in the Ghanian capital Accra over the weekend to discuss the situation. They agreed not to lift sanctions crippling the economy unless interim leaders proposed a shorter transition.
The ECOWAS bloc did not immediately comment on the 24-month decree adopted on Monday.
Anger at the mounting toll in the country’s battle against jihadists unleashed protests against Keita, paving the way for the coup by disgruntled army officers in August 2020.
A second de-facto coup occurred in May 2021, when strongman Goita pushed out an interim civilian government and took over the presidency.
The violence gripping Mali since 2012 has involved attacks by jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group, but also an assortment of self-declared militias and bandits.