Mali’s military rulers have announced that they would delay until March 2024 a return to civilian rule following double coups that have been denounced by countries in the region and foreign powers.
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”.
Mali has undergone two military coups, the first in August 2020, when the army ousted elected president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita.
A second de-facto coup occurred in May 2021, when strongman Goita pushed out an interim civilian government and took over the presidency.
He had pledged to return power to civilians by February 2022 but subsequently extended the timetable, incurring hard-hitting sanctions.
Regional body ECOWAS announced at the weekend that they would maintain these sanctions unless Mali’s junta made moves to restore civilian rule in the next 16 months.
Mali, along with Burkina Faso and Guinea are also currently suspended from the 15-nation body.
A new Ecowas summit is expected on 3 July, when further decisions on sanctions will be discussed.
Meanwhile, Goita has insisted the country needs to tackle security issues to create a climate suitable for elections.
The violence gripping Mali since 2012 has involved attacks by jihadists linked to Al-Qaeda and the so-called Islamic State group and other armed factions.
Complicating matters further, the military announced last month that it had decided to withdraw from the G5 Sahel group of nations including Mauritania, Chad, Burkina Faso and Niger.
The group’s heads of state were supposed to meet in Bamako in February to see Mali assume the G5 presidency, but nearly four months later, this meeting “has still not taken place”, the junta said.
Mali’s diplomatic relations with western allies, including former colonial power France, have deteriorated in recent months, especially over its recent rapprochement with Russia.
France suspended its cooperation with the Malian military in June last year in response to the second coup.