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Accra bound British Airways flight blocked from using Malian airspace by military junta

A British Airways flight taxing at the Heathrow international airport

Military rulers in the West African state of Mali yesterday, 8 April 2022, refused to allow British Airways flight BA081, to pass through the Malian airspace, forcing the flight to return to London, a source with knowledge about the development has confirmed to Asaase News.

According to our source who was on the British Airways flight (BA 081) from Heathrow international airport in London which was expected to land in Accra at approximately 7:30pm, the flight had about 200 passengers on board

BA flight blocked

“When the flight captain announced over the public address system in the flight about the development, we noticed that out flight was circling around the Malian airspace and that went on for about an hour” the BA flight 081 passenger told Asaase News.

“The Captain after an hour of circling the Malian airspace, turned around and tried to land in Algeria but that did not work as well so he ended up landing in the city of Malaga in Spain, where he was permitted. After refuelling in Malaga, the flight departed and arrived in London at about 2am Saturday 9 April 2022” the source further explained.

Motivation for the refusal

It is not clear the exact reasons why the Malian authorities decided to block the Accra bound British Airways flight from flying through its airspace, but some security expects Asaase news has spoken to indicate that the military junta in Mali may be expressing their displeasure over sanctions that have been imposed on them by the Authority of heads of states of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), following their coup d’état of 18 August 2020 and on 24 May 2021.

“Mali has indeed acted like a hostile country. Whatever the problem is, the government of Ghana must take this up at the highest level. They indeed put the lives of 200 plus Ghanaians in serious danger. Thank God this ended peacefully” another passenger who was on the flight told Asaase News.

President Akufo-Addo who is the current Chairman of the Authority of heads of state of ECOWAS, has been at the forefront of all discussions and negotiations aimed at ensuring the restoration of constitutional rule in Mali and two other West African nations who have also suffered coup d’états in the last 24 months, namely Guinea and Burkina Faso.

Request to lift sanctions

Mali’s military government has asked ECOWAS and the West African Economic and Monetary Union (UEMOA) to lift sanctions that have been imposed because it is having severe consequences on the Malian population.

West Africa’s 15-nation ECOWAS bloc and the UEMOA regional monetary union both imposed sanctions on Mali on 9 January after the military junta that first seized power in a 2020 coup decided to delay a national election.

The UEMOA, which has eight member countries including Mali, instructed all financial institutions under its umbrella to suspend Mali with immediate effect. Mali blamed the sanctions for US$31 million in bond defaults.

The government said in a statement released Monday 7 February 2022, that it had never been formally notified of the sanctions by UEMOA, which it said were a violation of procedure, calling the measures “disproportionate, inhumane, illegitimate and illegal”.

Latest ECOWAS position

Heads of State of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) at their fifth extraordinary summit since three coup d’états occurred in the region, decided to maintain their demand for constitutional transitions in Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso within the shortest possible time.

At their summit held at the Kempinski hotel gold coast city in Accra on Friday 25 March 2022, chair of ECOWAS and President of Ghana, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, described Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso as “recalcitrant states” and urged his colleague heads of state to join hands to assume their responsibility of ensuring total security within the ECOWAS region.

After about four hours of closed door discussions, ECOWAS leaders by an eight-page communique, insisted that the military heads in the three affected nations, must do everything possible to restore constitutional rule within the shortest possible time.

Transition timelines

On Mali, the ECOWAS heads of state according to the communique, noted that “the security and humanitarian situation in Mali continues to deteriorate with attacks by terrorist groups resulting in military and civilian casualties”.

They also noted that “during the last mission of the ECOWAS Mediator to Mali from 18 to 20 March 2022, the “Transition Authorities” proposed a 24-month timetable, that is, two (2) years in addition to the 18 months that has already elapsed”.

“In light of the foregoing, the Authority urges the “Transition Authorities” to adhere to the additional period of 12 to 16 months which has been agreed by the joint technical team ECOWAS/AU/UN for the extension of the transition with effect from 15 March 2022, taking into account the activities required for the conduct of the presidential elections” the communique read.

Among others, the ECOWAS leaders decides to send the Mediator to Mali, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, to continue and finalise the discussions on the chronogramme with the Transition Authorities.

The ECOWAS Authority also decided to “uphold the sanctions imposed on Mali on 9 January 2022 but called “on partners to increase their humanitarian support to Mali”.

Wilberforce Asare

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