ECOWAS Chair: ‘Strong Signal’ Needed on Mali Crisis

Posted March 27th, 2012 at 12:25 pm (UTC-5)
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The head of a West African regional bloc says the group must send a “strong signal” to renegade soldiers who carried out a coup in Mali last week.

Ivory Coast President Alassane Ouattara told representatives of 15 member states they must take immediate steps to defend democracy in Mali and send a message to all of Africa.

Mr. Ouattara chairs the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which called the emergency meeting in Abidjan on Tuesday.

The group, which controls West Africa's common currency, is considering whether to suspend Mali from its membership and impose other sanctions.

The United States, France and the European Union has already halted non-humanitarian aid to Mali in response to the coup.

ECOWAS Vice President Toga Gayewea McIntosh told VOA his group's goal is to preserve peace, stability and democracy.

“The preoccupation of this meeting is basically to see how we can engage the players on the ground and see if we can get back on track for the democratic process to take its course.”

The African Union has already suspended Mali and the United Nations, the United States and other countries have called for a return to constitutional order.

The mutinous soldiers seized power on Thursday from President Amadou Toumani Touré.

Mr. Touré was due to step down in coming weeks after serving two terms. A presidential election had been scheduled for late April.

The mutinous soldiers say they took power in order to launch a more effective response to an ethnic Tuareg rebellion in the north.