Following a military coup in Mali, the World Bank said it had temporarily halted payments to activities in the nation, while the man slated to become the country’s new prime minister cautioned that sanctions would only exacerbate the country’s problem.
After France stated on Thursday that it was suspending joint operations with Malian troops in order to urge for a return to civilian government, the Bank’s measures add to the pressure on Mali’s military leadership.
The military’s overthrow of Mali’s transitional president last week, its second coup in nine months, has drawn international condemnation and raised fears the political crisis will weaken regional efforts to fight Islamist militants.
The World Bank, whose International Development Association (IDA) is currently financing projects to the tune of $1.5 billion in Mali, confirmed the suspension of payments in a statement to Reuters.
“In accordance with the World Bank policy applicable to similar situations, it has temporarily paused disbursements on its operations in Mali, as it closely monitors and assesses the situation,” it said.
Assimi Goita, the colonel who led both coups, was declared president last Friday after having served as vice president under Bah Ndaw, who had been leading the transition since September. Ndaw and his prime minister resigned while in military custody last week.
Goita is widely expected in the coming days to name as prime minister Choguel Maiga, the leader of the M5-RFP opposition coalition that spearheaded protests against former President Ibrahim Boubacar Keita before his overthrow last August.
At a rally in the capital Bamako on Friday to mark the one-year anniversary of the start of the protests against Keita, Maiga was alternately firm and conciliatory toward foreign partners.
“We will respect international engagements that aren’t contrary to the fundamental interests of the Malian people,” he said before thousands of supporters in the city’s Independence Square.
“Sanctions and threats will only complicate the situation,” he said.
In Mali and the wider Sahel, an arid region of West Africa just below the Sahara desert, France’s former colonial power has more than 5,000 troops undertaking counter-insurgency operations against Islamist terrorists.
It aims to use its clout to pressure Goita to stick to the 18-month timeline agreed upon at the start of the transition by holding a presidential election in February next year.
Mali’s participation in the African Union and a West African regional group was suspended in response to the coup, but no additional penalties were imposed.