From Vincent Ikuomola, Abuja
The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has the backing of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) on efforts towards resolving the political crisis in Mali.
The Malian President, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, was removed from office and abducted by military juntas in August 2020, a situation the regional body kicked against. The regional body called for restoration of democratic rule within 12 months against the three years asked for by the juntas.
Responding to questions from Diplomatic Correspondents via zoom on Mali political crisis, UNGA outgoing President and Nigeria Permanent Representative to UN, Tijjani Muhammad-Bande, said the UN General Assembly is closely monitoring the situation in Mali and is heavily relying on reports from the ECOWAS body.
Muhammad-Bande was elected the President of the 74th session of the UN General Assembly on June 4, 2019, and later succeeded María Fernanda Espinosa, whose term officially ended in September 2019. He is expected to bow out of office this month after completing his one year term in office.
He said the global body is not keeping mute on the issue, rather, it is working closely with all the necessary bodies in the continent, including the African Union (AU) and ECOWAS, to ensure smooth resolution of the crisis.
He said the UN is on the same page with ECOWAS on the resolution of the crisis and would rather depend on the regional body, which he described as very effective and strong in the handling of the crisis.
Besides, he said the UN is working closely with the leadership of ECOWAS. There is coordination between all the bodies.
“There are lots of discussions on the ground and the UN will listen to those on ground (ECOWAS). There is a strong collaboration,” he added.
Meanwhile, ECOWAS has issued the military coupists in Mali an ultimatum on appointment of civilian head of transition government and Prime Minister for the country.
According to the regional body, the juntas have, not later than 15th September 2020, to appoint the head of the transition government and also Prime Minister; both of which the regional body said must be civilians.
The transition government will have one year to midwife return to democracy which was abruptly cut short by the military juntas.
The ultimatum was issued at the end of the 57th ECOWAS summit held in Niamey, Republic of Niger.
The Head of states and government decision was contained in a communique issued at the end of the summit.
It stated, “Regarding the situation in Mali, the Authority reaffirms its determination to ensure that constitutional order is quickly restored in Mali, with a political transition led by a civilian President and Prime Minister for twelve months.
“The Authority maintains all the decisions taken at its extraordinary Summit of 28 August 2020 and notes the ongoing consultations between the Malian stakeholders initiated by the National Council for the People’s Salvation (CNSP).
“Authority directs that the Head of Transition and Prime Minister, both civilians, be appointed no later than 15 September. Authority welcomes the departure of President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita for medical treatment abroad and wishes him a speedy recovery.”
On the much talked about reform of the UN, which African countries have been pushing for, especially in the UN Security Council, Muhammad Bande said the issue still remains a very big challenge.
He reasoned that it will be difficult to make those who have been holding onto power to cede some of it.
He argued that the issue will take a lot of negotiations so as to get some buy-in from countries across other continents.
The envoy also pointed out that the reform of the UN Security Council is an African call that it must have a permanent seat at the Security Council and the stand has not changed
Muhammad-Bande said “It is an African issue. The view is, we need to reform the UN as the continent is the only one not represented at the UN Security Council.
“The reform of the Security Council is the most difficult. It is never an easy thing to make people cede power; it is a big challenge.
“African position is well known-that is, Africa desires a permanent seat on the Security Council.”
While noting that many African countries are not happy with the pace the reform is going, Muhammad-Bande however said the push is not going to be an easy one as it will need a lot of negotiation that must be accepted by a number of countries.
He revealed that under his watch, a committee was set up to look into the review, but was slowed down by the Covid-19 pandemic.
He said the committee met twice before the global lockdown, but could not meet virtually as some members felt the issues involved are too critical for online discussion.