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Malians in thousands protest African bloc sanctions on junta

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Malians in thousands protest African bloc sanctions on junta

Leaders from the Economic Community of West Africa States agreed to sanction Mali last week over delayed elections. Mali‘s coup leaders had initially agreed to hold elections this February, before revising that and proposing a new date of December 2025. (AFP) Thousands of people have demonstrated in the Malian capital Bamako against sanctions imposed by neighbouring countries on the transitional military government for trying to extend its hold on power.

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People poured into Independence Square on Friday in Bamako, holding up signs saying “Down with ECOWAS and “Down with France“. 

The rally was organised by the military-led government.

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“I am here to say that Mali is first for Malians, it's not ECOWAS or France who are going to make decisions in our place,” said Adama Cisse, a 40-year-old teacher attending the protest.

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The Economic Community of West African States agreed a raft of restrictions on Sunday against Mali, where a military junta seized power in a 2020 coup

The coup leaders had initially agreed to hold elections this February, before revising that and proposing a new date of December 2025

The sanctions over the delay have left the landlocked country isolated as neighbours have cancelled flights, closed borders and cut off its access to regional financial markets

Western powers, led by former colonial ruler France, have backed the sanctions

READ MORE: Mali's junta slams new sanctions by West African bloc

Demonstrators hold up signs reading “woe to the oppressors of the Malian people, France, the European Union and the Economic Community of West Africa (ECOWAS)”, during a mass demonstration in Bamako. (AFP) Russian private military in spotlight

Mali was already in a spat with Western allies over its hiring of Russian private military contractors to provide security services, a move France has strongly objected to

The EU said on Thursday it would follow ECOWAS in imposing sanctions on Mali due to the arrival of Russian contractors as well as the election delay

The Malian government has said the Russian personnel are instructors who came with equipment they bought from Russia

French troops have been deployed to Mali since 2013 to help fight militant groups linked to Al Qaeda and Daesh. 

The UN peacekeeping mission MINUSMA also has about 12,000 troops in Mali to try to contain the violence

In a further sign of fallout, Sweden on Friday said it would withdraw its forces this year from a European special forces mission in Mali, and would review its contribution to the UN peacekeeping force

READ MORE:  Mali could rewrite Russian-French relations in the Sahel

READ MORE: West African leaders impose 'very harsh' sanctions on Mali

Source: TRTWorld and agencies