The denouncement comes after a regional grouping decided to freeze Mali's assets, a pressure tactic against the ruling junta amid concerns over the future of democracy in the West African country.

Coup leader Assimi Goita's decision to delay new elections has received flak from the regional bloc known as ECOWAS.
Coup leader Assimi Goita's decision to delay new elections has received flak from the regional bloc known as ECOWAS. (Reuters)

Mali's ruling junta has condemned new economic sanctions imposed by West African regional leaders after the coup leader announced a plan to delay new elections by four years.

Appearing on a late-night news flash on state TV, a spokesman for Mali’s government said on Monday it learned of the decision with “stupefaction.”

“The government of Mali energetically condemns these illegal and illegitimate sanctions,” said Colonel Abdoulaye Maiga on Monday.

The new measures step up pressure on Colonel Assimi Goita, including freezing of Mali's assets held in the regional central bank. 

Flights from the 14 other countries in the regional bloc known as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) also have been halted.

West African leaders who met on Sunday in Ghana's capital also said they had activated the ECOWAS standby military force.

This hinted at the threat of military intervention if the junta in Mali continues to defy international calls for democratic elections.

Goita summoned his cabinet on Monday for an extraordinary meeting about the sanctions, an official in his office told AFP news agency, requesting anonymity.

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

Polls pushed back

The junta initially had agreed to hold a new election in late February, 18 months after it first seized power. 

The military leadership now says the next presidential election will not take place until 2026, giving Goita four more years in power.

ECOWAS leaders called this timeframe “totally unacceptable” and said it “simply means that an illegitimate military transition government will take the Malian people hostage during the next five years”.

The ECOWAS business sanctions won’t apply to essentials like pharmaceuticals, medical supplies and equipment to fight Covid-19. 

Petroleum products and electricity are also excluded, the regional bloc said.

But all of Mali’s financial assets held in the regional bloc’s central bank and commercial banks will be blocked. Previous sanctions had only targeted junta leadership with travel bans and asset freezes.

READ MORE: Mali's return to democratic rule may take up to five years

Source: AP