Russia and China are blocking the UN Security Council from supporting new sanctions against Mali

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Russia and China on Tuesday blocked the UN Security Council from supporting new sanctions against Mali for its military leaders’ decision to postpone next month’s elections to 2026, a blow to the restoration of democracy in the troubled West African nation.

Kenya’s UN ambassador, Martin Kimani, said after closed discussions on the proposed French statement in support of sanctions imposed by the West African regional group ECOWAS that he was “disappointed” that the Council could not agree on what he called a “relatively mild” press release.

Kimani said the Security Council’s failure to support ECOWAS ‘actions spurred its three African members – Kenya, Ghana and Gabon – to speak to reporters in full support of the regional bloc’s position, “including the imposition of sanctions on the military authorities in Mali to ensure a accelerated transition to constitutional rule. ”

Mali has been fighting to curb an Islamic extremist uprising since 2012. Extremist rebels were forced out of power in northern Mali cities with the help of a French-led military operation, but regrouped in the desert and began attacking the Malian army and its allies. Uncertainty has been exacerbated by attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers.

In August 2020, Malian President Boubacar Ibrahim Keita was overthrown in a coup that included Colonel Assimi Goita. In June last year, Goita was sworn in as president of a transitional government after carrying out its second nine-month coup. The junta had initially agreed to hold a new election at the end of February, but the military leadership now says that the presidential vote will not take place until 2026 due to deepened uncertainty throughout the country, giving Goita four more years in power.

ECOWAS leaders responded on Sunday, calling Goita’s delayed timetable “completely unacceptable”, saying it “only means that an illegal military transitional government will take the Malian people hostage for the next five years”.

They imposed new sanctions, stopped most trade and financial aid to Mali, closed land and air borders with other members of ECOWAS and activated the bloc’s contingency force, saying it “will be ready for any eventuality.”

The United States, Britain, France and other Security Council members joined the Africans in supporting ECOWAS ‘actions.

British Deputy Ambassador James Kariuki called Mali’s decision to postpone the election “deeply disappointing”, saying it “questioned the transitional authorities’ commitment to democracy and the rule of law, despite assurances given to members of this council during our visit to Bamako last October. ”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield accused Mali’s transitional government of an “obvious lack of political will … to make progress in organizing elections” and said a five-year transition “prolongs the people’s pain.”

The three countries also strongly criticized the presence of the Russian private military company Wagner Group in Mali.

French Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere reiterated his country’s condemnation of the deployment of Wagnerian mercenaries “who are known to threaten civilians, plunder resources, violate international law and state sovereignty.” He lamented that Mali’s transitional authorities “use already limited public funds to pay foreign mercenaries instead of supporting national forces and public services for the benefit of the Malian people.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov has said the company has a “legitimate” right to be in the West African nation because it was invited by the transitional government, and he has insisted that the Russian government is not involved.

Mali’s UN Ambassador, Issa Konfourou, told the Security Council that there were no mercenaries on Malian soil. He said Russian trainers are in Mali to advise and train their military on the use of military equipment acquired by the government from Russia.

Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said: “The hysteria surrounding the Russian company is another manifestation of double standards, because it is clear that the market for such services is monopolized by Western countries.”

Konfourou said the government was “shocked” by ECOWAS ‘economic and financial sanctions and “emphatically condemned these illegal and illegal” measures. He said Goita called on ECOWAS “to reconsider its interpretation of the situation in Mali”, remain open to dialogue with the regional bloc and “reiterated a desire not to spare any effort to ensure a speedy restoration of constitutional order in a safe and secure Mali”. . ”

Diplomats said that Russia considered the proposal of the proposed council unbalanced, and that Nebenzia was sympathetic to the government.

“We understand and are aware of the difficulties encountered by the Malian authorities in preparing for the general elections,” said the Russian ambassador. “We agree that there will be a lack of restoration of government control in many parts, regions of the country, difficult to see the vote as legitimate.”

(AP)