West African leaders open summit on Mali crisis

April 2, 2012
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Mali residents demonstrate on the streets/FILE
DAKAR, Apr 2 – West African leaders gathered in Dakar on Monday for a meeting on the unfolding crisis in Mali, in which they are expected to decide whether to cut off Mali’s trade and financial ties to its neighbours.

The summit was opened by Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara, chairman of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), and is attended by about a dozen presidents and representatives from the United Nations, France and the United States.

Also present is ECOWAS-appointed mediator, Burkinabe President Blaise Compaore, African Union chairman Boni Yayi, president of Benin, UN West Africa envoy Said Djinnit and French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe.

The regional bloc last met on Thursday and gave the junta until Monday to restore constitutional order or face having itself cut off from its neighbours and the regional central bank based in Dakar.

The regional bloc, which suspended Mali after the coup, has also warned it has 2,000 troops on alert for a possible military intervention.

The junta on Sunday announced various compromises in a bid to stave off these sanctions which could bring the landlocked nation to its knees.

Coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo declared Mali’s constitution “restored” and announced the reinstatement of state institutions, promising elections in which the junta would not take part.

A band of low-ranking officers led by Sanogo ousted President Amadou Toure on March 22, over the government’s “incompetence” in handling a northern Tuareg rebellion.

However a power vacuum has allowed the rebels to seize several key cities, putting them in control of the northern half of the country in less than two weeks.

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