Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) - The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has suspended Mali and warned the putschists who toppled the country's democratically-elected President last week that they could face the military might of the regional bloc, if they fail to restore constitutional rule.
In an indication that the regional bloc will not give the Junta any form of legitimacy, it also said a travel ban as well as a diplomatic and financial embargo against the putschists will come into effect immediately, if they fail to restore ousted President Ahmadou Toumani Toure.
If the sanctions fail to dislodge the renegade soldiers, ECOWAS said it will take all necessary measures, including the use of force, to re-establish constitutional order in Mali.
To show it is not just bluffing, the 15-member regional bloc has asked the ECOWAS Commission to put the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) on high alert ''for all eventualities''.
The suspension of Mali's membership means it will not be able to participate in all decision-making bodies of ECOWAS, with immediate effect.
The decisions were taken at Tuesday's extra-ordinary summit of ECOWAS in Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire, which was attended by the nine Presidents as well as representatives of the African Union, UN, UEMOA, Algeria and Mauritania.
The summit was called mainly to deliberate on the coup in Mali by low-ranking soldiers who said they were protesting their government's poor handling of the Tuareg-led rebellion in the north of the country.
''Authority reaffirms the inviolability of ECOWAS Protocols, in particular the pertinent provisions of the Supplementary Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance (2001), which declare 'Zero Tolerance' for power obtained or maintained by unconstitutional means,'' the leaders said in their communique, obtained by PANA here Wednesday.
''Summit deplores the debilitating impact of the coup d’état on the painstaking gains made by the ECOWAS Region in the past two decades to enhance stability and entrench democratic culture and the rule of law,'' they said.
However, the summit decided to give the Junta, which sent representatives to Abidjan during the session, the opportunity to understand the implication of non-compliance with its decisions by sending two delegations to convey the summit's outcomes to them.
The first delegation, due in Bamako Wednesday, will comprise the Chiefs of Defence Staff of Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Niger, Togo, Senegal and the President of the ECOWAS Commission and the Chief of Staff of the EST.
Its mandate includes ''to sensitize the Junta on the need for the immediate return to constitutional order; inform the Junta about the recent measures which were envisaged by ECOWAS to assist Mali in preserving its territorial integrity; evaluate the military situation on the ground and the command chain; intimate the Junta about the sanctions to which they are liable in the event of non-compliance with Authority decisions; and inform the Comité National de Redressement pour la Démocratie et la Restauration de l‘Etat (CNRDRE) that ECOWAS shall take all necessary measures to re-establish constitutional order in Mali''.
The second mission is a high-level delegation comprising Presidents Alassane Dramane Ouattara (Cote d'Ivoire and ECOWAS Chairman); Thomas Boni Yayi (Benin and AU Chairman); Blaise Compaore (Burkina Faso); Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf (Liberia); Issoufou Mahamadou (Niger), and Goodluck Ebele Jonathan (Nigeria).
It is due in the Malian capital later this week ''to secure the speedy restoration of constitutional order'', the communique said.
-0- PANA SEG 28Mar2012