Mali’s military junta and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) announced a deal late on Friday that includes the lifting of sanctions and an amnesty for those involved in last month’s coup.
The agreement provides a framework for a return to constitutional rule under an interim leader who will oversee democratic elections and handle the crisis in the north, where Islamists and Tuareg rebels have seized control.
It came after Mali’s Tuareg rebels declared independence on Friday in the north, a move rejected by the international community and the Islamist insurgents they fought beside, as fears grew of a humanitarian crisis.
The US, Africa and Europe dismissed the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad’s (MNLA’s) declaration of independence.
The declaration, long a goal of Tuareg rebels, is a bid to formalize the situation on the ground.
A democratic success since its last coup 21 years ago, Mali is now roughly divided into a Tuareg rebel-controlled north and a junta-controlled south.
ECOWAS President Alassane Ouattara of Ivory Coast said sanctions should be lifted “immediately,” Burkina Faso’s foreign minister, Djibril Bassole, told public TV station ORTM, referring to Friday’s deal.
He also said Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, who was overthrown on March 22 and has not been seen since in public, should be able to live where he wants under army protection.
Bassole, speaking on behalf of ECOWAS Mali negotiator Blaise Compaore, the president of Burkina Faso, said: “We wanted ... Toure to be allowed to return to the house of his choice and that he could also be protected by the defense and security forces.”
He was speaking at Kati near Bamako, the headquarters of the junta, whose head, Captain Amadou Sanogo, read out the accord signed with ECOWAS.
At the same place, coup leader Sanogo had announced on Tuesday that the junta planned legal action against Toure for “high treason and embezzlement.”
The text of the deal was signed by Bassole and Sanogo, with Ivorian Minister for African Integration Adama Bictogo and Nigerian Minister of Foreign Affairs Nurudeen Muhammad as witnesses.
Under the agreement, to be carried out “under the aegis of the ECOWAS mediator and with the support of the international community,” the speaker of the national assembly would become interim president with a transitional prime minister and government.
The single-chamber Malian parliament is headed by Dioncounda Traore, who is currently abroad.
The accord states that the interim president would have “a mission to organize a presidential election in the constitutional time-frame of 40 days.”
However, given the “exceptional circumstances ... due to the institutional crisis and the armed rebellion in the north,” it would be impossible to hold elections within 40 days and so it was “indispensable to organize a political transition” until electoral lists could be revised and “accepted by all.”
On Monday, ECOWAS decided to clamp an immediate total embargo on Mali, a north African country of 15 million inhabitants, in a bid to return it to constitutional order after the March 22 military coup.