The United Nations called Thursday on Mali’s ruling junta to announce an election timetable amid anger at its suggestion it could stay in power for five years before holding a vote.
“It is absolutely essential that the government of Mali present an acceptable election timetable,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told reporters. He said he hoped to “get in contact quickly” with the junta.
“I am working with the ECOWAS and the African Union to create conditions which can allow the government of Mali to adopt a reasonable and acceptable position to accelerate a transition which has already been underway for a long time,” he added, referring to the Economic Community of West African States.
ECOWAS, in a sharp escalation after months of pressure, last week agreed to shutter borders with the impoverished Sahel state and impose a trade embargo.
The move came after Mali’s interim government proposed staying in power for up to five years before staging elections, defying international demands that it respect a promise to hold elections on February 27.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, in an interview on Wednesday with AFP, called for the European Union to follow up with its own sanctions.
France is winding down an operation in which it has sent thousands of troops to Mali and neighboring Sahel countries to fight jihadists.
Sweden, which has around 370 troops in Mali, said Thursday it was “very concerned about developments” related to “the postponement of elections”.
Speaking at a conference Thursday, the EU special envoy for the Sahel, Emanuela Del Re, backed sanctions by the bloc but said that the world needed to keep Mali “engaged and not isolated”.
“The position of the European Union must be coherent and must show firmness in asking for concrete and acceptable responses by the Malian authorities,” she told an online conference of the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“We must keep the dialogue open and alive, holding the transition authorities to their commitment.”
Mali’s army initially promised to stage elections in February of this year, after staging a coup in August 2020.
But in December, it suggested staying in power for up to an additional five years, citing security concerns.