Welcome, Farewell, Sanctions and Negotiation – African leaders at UNGA 2022

Written by Osetemega Iribiri

September 26, 2022

As African leaders converged in New York for the 77th United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), for one, it was his last, and another his first. Kenya’s new president, William Ruto, gave his debut speech at the UNGA. He drew attention to investment opportunities and the effects of climate change that is causing severe drought in the Horn of Africa. Unlike Mr. Ruto, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari gave his farewell speech. He charged African leaders to uphold the sanctity of constitutional term limits, stop extending their tenures and give room for periodic free and fair elections. Oftentimes, African leaders amend the constitution in favor of an extended tenure. An example case is Equatorial Guinea’s President, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, 80. He is seeking reelection for another seven-year term at November 20, 2022 polls. He has ruled the country for 43 years and is the longest-serving head of state in Africa.

In addition to extended tenures, the region has also been plagued by several military takeovers of power. Guinea and Mali’s respectively in September and May 2021 had military coups. Consequently, their membership in ECOWAS was suspended. Therefore, West African leaders, on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly, agreed to freeze Guinea’s military government members’ financial assets and bar them from traveling to other countries in the region. Additionally, the financing of Guinean development projects will be suspended by the ECOWAS Development Bank. Currently, the bank supports at least two energy projects in the country. They have also set a deadline of October 22, 2022, for the junta to establish a “reasonable timetable” to transit into a democratic government. This is particularly in response to the junta stating it would transit into democracy in three years.

This is not the first sanction. Travel restrictions have been placed on the heads of the junta and their families. Tough trade and financial sanctions were placed on Mali but lifted after the junta published a new electoral law and a timetable that includes a February 2024 presidential election. Nevertheless, Mali remains suspended from ECOWAS and individual sanctions and travel limits placed on about 150 members of the Malian junta.

The West African leaders also condemned the arrest of the Ivorian soldiers in Mali. On July 20, 2022, 49 Ivorian soldiers were detained on arrival in Bamako, Mali. They have been accused of “criminal association, attack, and conspiracy against the government, undermining the external security of the state, possession, carrying and transportation of weapons of war and complicity in these crimes.” The Ivorian government has denied these charges saying the soldiers were sent to secure a building belonging to an airline company that was carrying out a contract with the German contingent of peacekeepers with the United Nations mission in Mali. This arrest has launched both countries into a diplomatic tussle.  Mali has released 3 female soldiers, but 46 remain in detention. The Malian junta chief, Colonel Assimi Goita, has called for the release of Malian political asylum seekers in Ivory-Coast in exchange for the 46 Ivorian soldiers. Additionally, there have been anti-UN protests in Mali.

Consequently, on Tuesday, September 27, the Presidents of Ghana, Togo, and Senegal will visit Mali to negotiate the soldiers’ release.

Amid the tensions in the region, it is admirable that regional leaders under the auspices of ECOWAS are rising to the task of maintaining and restoring peace and stability to the region. A peaceful resolution must be established between Mali and Guinea. Further, democratic governance must be returned to Guinea, Mali, and other African countries under military regimes.

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