West African leaders call on Mali to hold elections at the end of February

West African regional bloc called on Sunday for military-ruled Mali to hold elections in February, and threatened further sanctions in January if Bamako fails to make any commitment towards returning to democracy.

"The heads of state... decided to keep the (deadline) of February 27, 2022 for elections in Mali," president of the West African ECOWAS bloc Jean-Claude Brou told reporters in Abuja, adding sanctions would be imposed in January if Mali did not move to stage polls.

The head of Mali's military-dominated government had earlier on Sunday promised West Africa's regional bloc he would provide it with an election timetable by January 2022.

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) suspended Mali following military coups in August 2020 and May 2021, sanctioning officials deemed responsible for delaying elections and threatening further measures.

West African leaders on Sunday held a summit in Nigeria's capital Abuja to discuss how to respond to Mali's failure to prepare to hold elections by February 2022 before a return to civilian rule.

The head of Mali's transitional government, Colonel Assimi Goita justified postponing the election and holding a national consultation which he said would be "indispensable" for peace and stability.

Goita emerged as Mali's strongman leader after a coup that toppled former president Ibrahim Boubacar Keita in August 2020.

Several civil society organisations boycotted the consultation launched on Saturday.

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