Leaders of 15 west African countries have agreed to impose strict sanctions on the new military junta in Mali in an effort to make them stand down.
The ECOWAS bloc, meeting in neighbouring Senegal, also announced that the region’s own standby military force would be activated.
Tuareg rebels in the north of the country took advantage of the coup and claimed to control three major cities. Refugees arrived in the capital Bamako with stories of violence.
Nigerian refugee Onyebuchi Valentine Okagbue spoke of a lot of destruction. “Without being there, you can’t understand the situation,” he said. “Unless you are there in person, because there is too much – many people have died. There is no food, no electricity – a lot of things. So you find your way out and you thank God.”
The main aim of the coup was to give soldiers more power to deal with the two-month rebellion in the north, but that backfired.
The ECOWAS sanctions include economic, financial and diplomatic measures – including the closure of Mali’s borders.
That could prove crippling to the land-locked country, starving it of the imported fuel on which it depends.