ECOWAS Sanctions Push Mali Dangerously Close Towards Humanitarian Crisis


On Monday, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) imposed economic and diplomatic sanctions on Mali in response to February's military coup.. The sanctions were intended to oust the coup leader, Captain Amadou Sanago, and the Malian junta, but have only succeeded in exacerbatingthe tense situation in the North, andhurting the already suffering Malian people. 

The sanctions have closed Mali’s borders to trade and traffic, leaving them open only for humanitarian reasons. Additionally, the country’s access to cash from the West African Central Bank, and assets in the ECOWAS countries have also been frozen. These steps are politically unsucessful and have only hurt the people of Mali who are also struggling with  drought and near lawlessness in the north, where rebel Tuareg soldiers and the Azawad National Liberation Movement (MNLA) have taken controlof Gao Kidal, and Timbuktu.

The junta said they seized power because they were unhappy with the way the government of then-President Amado Toumani Toure had been handling the rebels in the North. The effects of the coup are now approaching the stage of humanitarian crisis.  The sanctions have completely immobilized the military leaders ability to confront the rebels, and the Malians have been subject to intense fighting and looting. Many are fleeing the North to escape the terror. Women and girls in particular are afraid to leave their homes after reports of kidnapping and rape. 

ECOWAS had good intentions in imposing the economic sanctions Mali to oust the junta and reinstall the rightfully elected government. But, any political analyst could have predicted the humanitarian crisis that would ensue — particularly in such an import and aid dependent country.

The self-imposed government and military now lack the resources and monetary access required to helpthe Mailian citizens. Unless humanitarian aid, primarily food, is allowed to reach those suffering, millions of people will face starvation. Amnesty International warns that Mali is on the brink of a humanitarian disaster.

In exchange for assistance to suppress the rebels in the North and to establish peace, Captain Sanago promised to hold elections that do not include any of those currently in power.  The answer to his promise came in the form of   sanctions from ECOWAS and now the African Union. While in no way should the junta be recognized as a government, is the immediate preservation of democracy a more pressing issue than the well-being of millions of citizens?