Exempt humanitarian aid from Mali sanctions, NGOs urge

A group of NGOs have urged the EU and wider international community to exempt humanitarian aid from sanctions imposed on Mali’s military government, warning that 1.2 million Malians are facing a food crisis. [EPA-EFE/H.DIAKITE]

A group of NGOs has urged the EU and broader international community to exempt humanitarian aid from sanctions imposed on Mali’s military government, warning that 1.2 million Malians face a food crisis.

In a statement on Wednesday, the 13 leading organisations, including the International Rescue Committee and Oxfam, warned that with 7.5 million Malians – more than a third of the population – in need of humanitarian aid, the EU and other actors should exempt humanitarian assistance from the sanctions. In addition, any related administrative processes must be urgently clarified to protect the humanitarian response in Mali.

They added that humanitarian actors must have unfettered access to transport food and medicine and guarantees that they can transfer funds into the country without violating the sanctions.

Last week, EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell and French Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly said they would follow the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) lead and impose sanctions against Colonel Assimi Göita’s government following a meeting of EU defence ministers in Brest.

Borrell added that there was “no sign of progress from the [Malian] authorities”.

Col. Göita’s junta has recruited the Russian mercenary group Wagner, which has close links to the Kremlin, to help train and assist the Malian army, prompting France and the EU to threaten to withdraw troops from their defence and security mission. But it was the junta’s decision to cancel planned elections scheduled for February that promoted the EU to suspend its direct budget support to Mali.

Earlier this month, ECOWAS also agreed on a raft of restrictions against Mali, including the suspension of financial transactions.

Borrell and Parly also warned that the EU’s anti-jihad security and defence mission in the Sahel region, Operation Barkhane and its potential successor Takouba, were at risk of being wound up, with Borrell stating that “we want to stay engaged in Mali, we want to stay engaged in the Sahel, but that should not be done at any cost.”

“Despite more than a third of the country’s population being dependent on humanitarian aid, organisations working in Mali already face severe access constraints,” said Franck Vannetelle, the International Rescue Committee’s Country Director in Mali.

“It’s imperative that the international community keeps responding to people’s urgent needs and that any new sanctions have concrete humanitarian exemptions. These must be monitored and implemented, or the most vulnerable people in Mali will pay the price,” he added.

[Edited by Alice Taylor]

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