Mali suspended from African Union

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AU calls on military to ‘urgently and unconditionally return to barracks’ and to refrain from further interference in Mali’s political process.

Colonel Goita, the Malian military leader, was at the ECOWAS crisis summit in Ghana on Sunday to argue the military’s case but has now returned to Mali [File: Francis Kokoroko/Reuters]

Mali’s membership in the African Union has been suspended with immediate effect and the impoverished country threatened with sanctions following a second military coup in nine months.

The AU “decides … to immediately suspend the Republic of Mali from participation in all activities of the African Union, its organs and institutions, until normal constitutional order has been restored in the country”, the body’s Peace and Security Council said in a statement late on Tuesday.

The AU called for the military to “urgently and unconditionally return to the barracks, and to refrain from further interference in the political processes in Mali”.

It warned that if the military did not hand back power to civilian transitional leaders, “the Council will not hesitate to impose targeted sanctions and other punitive measures”.

Condemning the coup “in the strongest terms possible”, it added it was “deeply concerned about the evolving situation in Mali and its negative impact on the gains made thus far in the transition process in the country”.

The move follows a similar suspension on Sunday from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

The coup sparked deep concerns over stability in the volatile Sahel region. Despite a 2015 peace agreement with some armed groups and the presence of 14.000 United Nations troops, attacks are intensifying in the north and centre of the country. Almost half a million Malians have been forced to leave their homes and 6.000 people have been killed.

“The situation is bad when I think of my country today in a state of war,” Moro Sidibe, the son of a soldier who is training to join the army, told Al Jazeera. “I am afraid for the future that is why I want to join the fight and go to the frontline,” Sidibe added. His decision, he said, was triggered by a military takeover in August in the hope to help bring peace to the country.

While Colonel Assimi Goaita was attending the ECOWAS crisis summit in Ghana on Sunday, armed groups affiliated to Al Qaeda shot security forces marking the latest attack in Mali’s Southern region.

Last August, Goita led army officers who overthrew elected President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, following mass protests over perceived corruption and a bloody insurgency. After the takeover, the military agreed to appoint civilians as interim president and prime minister under the pressure of ECOWAS trade and financial sanctions.

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