May 22, 2013
Neighbours hit Mali junta with border shutdown
Mali's neighbours agreed to shut their borders with the West African country on Monday as part of tough sanctions aimed at forcing the leaders of last month's coup to step down.
Leaders of the 15-member Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, also announced they would "activate" the region's standby military force, though it was unclear when any troops would deploy and with what mandate.
The measures came as local Islamists who helped Tuareg separatists seize northern towns over the weekend began imposing sharia, or Islamic law, ransacking bars and banning Western clothes and music, residents said.
"All the diplomatic, economic, financial and other measures will be applied from today and will remain in place until constitutional order is re-established," Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara said after a summit in Dakar, Senegal.
The closure of borders will suffocate the landlocked economy of Africa's third biggest gold miner by cutting it off from the imported fuel on which it depends.
Mali will also be starved of funds from the regional BCEAO central bank, which manages the money supply in the West African zone, while individual members of the junta will face travel bans and asset freezes.
"We call on the armed groups to halt their advance towards the south," Ouattara added. He said ECOWAS military chiefs would discuss later this week how to "activate" a standby ECOWAS force, but gave no detail on when and how it would be deployed.
In Mali, the junta reaffirmed that it was ready to consult with civilians over a transition of power but said the priority remained the fight against the rebels whose stated aim is to carve out a homeland in Mali northern desert region.
"The CNRDR (junta) would like to reiterate that the most important priority at the moment is Mali's territorial integrity," it said in a statement read on state television.
People in the streets of the capital Bamako viewed the prospect of a trade embargo with dismay.
"It is a bit severe because the junta has not refused to step down. This is going to hurt ordinary Malians," said 31-year-old Yaya Kane.