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NGOs warn new sanctions risk plunging people of Mali into deeper humanitarian crisis

NEW sanctions risk plunging the people of Mali further into a humanitarian crisis, a group of 13 NGOs warned today as they called for life-saving aid to reach people in need.

In a statement, the organisations, including the Norwegian Refugee Council, called for the international community to protect the people of the African nation following last week’s announcement of new sanctions on Mali.

“Malians are already bearing the brunt of the humanitarian catastrophe, punctuated by horrifying attacks against civilians. 

“Sanctions must not hold us back from delivering essential assistance in a country where drought, rising insecurity and the economic impacts of Covid-19 are already pushing millions of Malians over the edge,” NRC spokeswoman Elena Vicario said. 

The European Union is supporting the Economic Community of West African States in the implementation of restrictions imposed after the interim administration postponed February’s elections.

This includes closing Mali’s borders and a trade embargo along with freezing financial assets held by the Central Bank of West African States and cutting off financial aid from the impoverished country.

The measures have already provoked anger among the Malian population, with hundreds of thousands protesting on Saturday in the capital Bamako against the sanctions.

They demanded the lifting of the restrictions and an end to France’s presence in Mali, accusing its former colonial ruler of war crimes and assisting the resurgence of jihadist groups that are plaguing the region.

Colonel Assimi Goita, who came to power in an August 2020 coup, has urged Malians to “defend our homeland,” labelling the sanctions “inhumane.”

Interim Prime Minister Choguel Kokalla Maiga told Saturday’s mass rally: “The fate of Africa is being played out in Mali today” as he reminded crowds of the history of African resistance.

He paid special tribute to China and Russia for opposing the “illegal and illegitimate embargo against our people.”

Russian troops arrived in Timbuktu earlier this month to train Malian forces at a military base vacated by the French, angering Western powers.

More than 7.5 million people — a third of the Malian population — rely on humanitarian aid as the country faces the worst food insecurity in a decade.

Successive governments have also struggled to cope with a jihadist insurgency which saw 948 attacks in northern Mali last year alone.

International Rescue Committee spokesman Franck Vanattelle called for “concrete humanitarian exemptions.”

“These must be monitored and implemented, or the most vulnerable people in Mali will pay the price,” he said.

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