President Muhammadu Buhari has backed a proposal for the military junta in Mali to set an acceptable one-year time table for return to democratic government, since the country cannot afford to stand alone in the sub-region.
The proposal was reached by leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) as part of negotiations to ease out soldiers who overthrew the civilian government in Mali.
Buhari made his position known on Friday in Abuja during a virtual Extraordinary Summit of ECOWAS Heads of State and Governments on the socio-political crisis in Mali.
He said that from the briefings presented by the ECOWAS Special Envoy, former President Goodluck Jonathan, it was clear that the regional body’s engagements with the new military leadership in Mali were yet to achieve the desired results in several key areas.
“I am, however, personally happy to hear of the release from detention of the former President of Mali, Ibrahim Boubacar Keita, who is reported to be in good condition. The disposition of the new leadership to free the remaining senior officials is noted as this should contribute to the renewed sense of belonging to the Malian people.
“With regards to other areas being negotiated, Nigeria believes that the people of Mali and the military leaders need to appreciate the fragility of their country and the imminent danger which it poses to the citizens of Mali as well as the ECOWAS sub-region”, the President said.
He added that the military leadership should be flexible in negotiations by putting the interest of all Malians and the harmony of the sub-region into consideration.
“For the people of Mali, specifically the leadership, embracing Democracy and Good Governance is crucial to the country’s political stability. Mali cannot therefore afford to stand alone, hence the need to come to terms with the realities of an acceptable and workable transition compact that inspires the confidence of all Malians.
“Meanwhile, I urge the military leadership to consider: the immediate release of all the remaining senior Government officials in detention, without pre-conditions; a transition process, to be completed in not more than 12 months, and which shall include the representatives of Malian stakeholders.
“This is a critical consideration for the new government to enjoy the cooperation and collaboration of regional and international community, and to allow the easing of sanctions imposed on Mali.’’
President Buhari also emphasized the need for Mali’s Constitutional Court to work hand in hand with all the Malian stakeholders to ensure an early and hitch-free return to a democratic government through free, fair and inclusive election.
According to the President, “In this connection Nigeria will, alongside ECOWAS, provide necessary logistics support to facilitate the conduct of elections to re-establish democratic governance in Mali.
“As I conclude this intervention, let me thank once again, the Mediator, Dr Jonathan, as well as my colleagues in the sub-region, who have continued to demonstrate sincere commitment to the resolution of this crisis. Nigeria stands in solidarity with the good people of Mali.’’
Buhari commended the Chair of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government, President Mahamadou Issoufou of Niger Republic for convening the Extraordinary Summit.
The President also condoled with Alassane Ouattara, President of Cote D’ivoire, on the loss of a close aide, Mamadi Diane.
Among Declarations of the Summit adopted by ECOWAS leaders were that the transition government in Mali must be led by civilians, and that the return to constitutional order should be concluded within 12 months.
Malian military was also encouraged to focus on securing the country, faced with severe security threats from its northern part, instead of an incursion into governance.