Mali announced the recall of its ambassadors to West Africa and the closure of its borders with its ECOWAS neighbors in reaction to its embargo by West African leaders meeting in Accra on Sunday.
"The government of Mali strongly condemns these illegal and illegitimate sanctions" and is recalling its ambassadors in the ECOWAS countries, said a statement read out on national television by the government spokesman in uniform, Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga.
"The government of Mali regrets that West African sub-regional organizations are being manipulated by extra-regional powers with ulterior motives," he added, without naming them.
The junta has also announced that it is closing its land and air borders with ECOWAS countries.
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (WAEMU) took a battery of strong economic and diplomatic measures against Mali on Sunday to sanction the junta's intention to remain in power for several more years.
The measures include a broken promise by the colonels to hold presidential and legislative elections on February 27 that would have put civilians in charge of the country.
ECOWAS, which maintains trade in basic goods, has also decided to cut off financial aid and freeze Mali's assets at the Central Bank of West African States (BCEAO).
The member countries will recall their ambassadors to Mali, which has suffered two military coups since 2020 and is in the grip of a deep security crisis.
These sanctions take effect immediately, they said. They will be lifted gradually only when the Malian authorities present an "acceptable" timetable and satisfactory progress is observed in its implementation.
The Malian junta's proposal to hold the presidential election in December 2026 is "totally unacceptable," ECOWAS said. It "simply means that an illegitimate transitional military government will hold the Malian people hostage for the next five years.
These West African sanctions are even more stringent than those adopted after the first putsch in August 2020. In the midst of a pandemic, they were severely felt in a landlocked country that is among the poorest in the world. They are credited with forcing the junta to agree to a commitment to return power to civilians within 18 months after elections.
Today, the junta says it will not be able to organize presidential and legislative elections as planned at the end of February, citing the persistent insecurity in the country, which is plagued by all kinds of violence: jihadist, communal, common law... It stresses the need for prior reforms so that the elections do not suffer from disputes, as in previous ones.