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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) — West African leaders attended a summit Sunday as their regional bloc pursues its efforts to resolve the political impasse in the coup-hit nations of Mali, Burkina Faso and Guinea.

A summit last month of the Economic Community of West African States put off imposing further economic and financial sanctions on the three nations.

They were suspended from the bloc following military coups and are under international pressure to hold democratic elections.

Malian authorities recently announced a transition roadmap that includes scheduling a presidential election for February 2024 and a March 2023 constitutional referendum.

It remains to be seen if participants at Sunday’s summit in Accra, the Ghanaian capital. will accept the proposal.

ECOWAS sanctioned Mali in January by shutting down most commerce with the country, along with its land and air borders with other countries in the bloc. The measures have crippled Mali’s economy.

The juntas in Guinea and Burkina Faso have proposed three-year transition periods, which ECOWAS rejected as too long a wait for elections.

The wave of military coups began in August 2020, when Col. Assimi Goita and other soldiers overthrew Mali’s democratically elected president. Nine months later, he carried out a second coup, dismissing the country’s civilian transitional leader and assuming the presidency himself.

Mutinous soldiers deposed Guinea’s president in September 2021, and Burkina Faso’s leader was ousted in a January coup.

The political upheaval came as many observers started to think that military power grabs were a thing of the past in West Africa.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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Tags: west african leaders and burkina faso military coups the political the political

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Tiny African kingdom has skiing as Europe sweats summer heat

BUTHA-BUTHE, Lesotho (AP) — While millions across Europe sweat through a summer of record-breaking heat, they’re skiing in Africa.

Don’t worry. This isn’t another sign of climate change but rather the fascinating anomaly of Lesotho, a tiny mountain kingdom completely surrounded by South Africa. Lesotho has an obscure geographical claim to fame: It’s the only country on Earth where every inch of its territory sits more than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet) above sea level.

That gives Lesotho snow in the southern hemiphere’s winters. And while cold winters aren’t rare in southern Africa, snow is and ski resorts are even rarer. At an altitude of 3,000 meters (9,842 feet), Afriski in Lesotho’s Maluti Mountains is Africa’s only operating ski resort south of the equator.

“I’ve never seen snow in my life,” said Kafi Mojapelo, who traveled the short distance from South Africa for a skiing vacation she never thought she’d take. “So, this is a great experience.”

Bafana Nadida, who comes from the sprawling urban township of Soweto in Johannesburg, was delighted with putting ski boots on for the first time. He planned a day of ski lessons, taking pictures and just playing about in the snow.

Skiers and snowboarders lined up to rent the proper gear. Some were given pointers by Hope Ramokotjo, who is from Lesotho and has worked as a self-taught ski and snowboard instructor for 12 years. His wide smile and deep, reassuring voice puts beginners at ease.

“Push your heals out. Don’t pull your shoulders,” Ramokotjo called out to his class of keen yet inexperienced African skiers as they wobbled along on the snow. “Here you go! Nice!”

Afriski’s Kapoko Snow Park is the only freestyle snow park on the continent. Competitors lined up last month for the annual Winter Whip Slopestyle snowboard and ski competition. Sekholo Ramonotsi, a 13-year-old from the Lesotho city of Butha-Buthe who practices regularly at Afriski, won the junior snowboard and ski divisions.

“I would really like to ski in Europe,” he said.

London-born Meka Lebohang Ejindu said he has taught skiing and snowboarding in Austria for more than a decade and this is his first season in the southern hemisphere. He has family roots in Lesotho.

“For a competition like this to happen in southern Africa is so heartwarming,” he said.

Afriski may not be at the level of Europe’s vast Alpine resorts but a love of winter sports is catching.

At Afriski’s Sky Restaurant and Gondola Cafe, happy hour starts at 10 a.m. and skiers and boarders show off their winter fashions and party to house music, beers in hand. Some claim the bar is the highest in Africa, although that’s challenged by the Sani Mountain Lodge, 130 kilometers (80 miles) to the east on the Lesotho-South Africa border.

What no one can dispute is this crowd went skiing in Africa.

Copyright © 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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