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ECOWAS Bows To Pressure, Lifts Sanctions on Niger, Mali, Guinea
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ECOWAS Bows To Pressure, Lifts Sanctions on Niger, Mali, Guinea

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The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has bowed to pressure from critics of its approach to political development in some West African, resolving to lift some sanctions on Niger Republic, Mali and Guinea.

The resolution was taken at the extraordinary summit on the peace, political and security situation in the ECOWAS sub-region in Abuja on Saturday.

The civilian governments in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger fell under military control in May 2021, September 2022 and July 2023, respectively.

On its part, the military in Guinea seized power in a coup in 2021 under Mamadi Doumbouya, Guinea’s transitional president.

While the regional bloc said the political and targeted sanctions on the Niger Republic remain, it lifted some financial and economic sanctions on Guinea and some targeted sanctions on Mali.

At the meeting, President Tinubu had asked the military leaderships of Burkina Faso, Niger, and Mali to reconsider their decision to withdraw from the Economic Community of West African States.

This came as he affirmed ECOWAS’ readiness to correspondingly re-examine its punitive approach to restoring constitutional rule to the states.

Tinubu spoke in his capacity as the Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority of Heads of State and Government when he declared open an extraordinary summit on the political, peace, and security situation in the region at the State House, Abuja.

Urging both sides to prioritise the welfare of their people, he said, “Times like we currently face in our sub-region demand that we take difficult but courageous decisions that put the plight of our people at the centre of our deliberations.

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“Democracy is nothing more than the political framework and the path to addressing the basic needs and aspirations of the people. This is why we must re-examine our current approach to the quest for constitutional order in four of our member states.

“I, therefore, urge them to reconsider the decision of the three of them to exit their home and not to perceive our organisation as the enemy”, President Tinubu said.

Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger Withdrew from ECOWAS

In January, the three Sahel countries of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger had withdrawn from the regional economic bloc, ECOWAS.

Their respective juntas announced their exit, accusing the bloc of “inhumane” sanctions to reverse the coups in their nations.

The juntas said in a joint statement read on state television that they have “decided in complete sovereignty on the immediate withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), alleging that the bloc has “moved away from the ideals of its founding fathers and pan-Africanism” after nearly 50 years of its establishment.

“Furthermore, ECOWAS, under the influence of foreign powers, betraying its founding principles, has become a threat to its member states and its populations whose happiness it is supposed to ensure,” their statements read.

Nigeria, ECOWAS Major Loser

In his reaction to the announcement of their withdrawal, the Executive Director of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Comrade Auwal Ibrahim Musa Rafsanjani described Nigeria as a major loser due to the walk-out decision taken by Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso from ECOWAS.

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Rafisanjani, who stated this during an exclusive chat with the Nigerian Tribune, lamented that the decision taken by the three countries will negatively impact Nigeria’s leadership role in the subregion, the African continent, and the international scene, respectively.

He said, “What Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso have done is a dangerous response to this ECOWAS, which does not seem to understand that it was time for them to actually begin engaging productively and positively with the military junta in those countries.

“Because you’re dealing with a situation where the populace supports the leadership they have now.

“So, you don’t have any moral ground to go start bombing or killing them. In fact, there’s nowhere in the ECOWAS protocol where they say you should go and start attacking any independent country for that matter.

“I think Nigeria is the greatest loser in the walkout of ECOWAS because Nigeria needs the support of these West African countries for its regional leadership.

“Nigeria has failed loosely in terms of creating a better way forward without being dogmatic in its own position.

“You do not need to be that strict for an issue that you do not have any legal or constitutional binding to push those people out.

“All you need to do is engage them to ensure that the return of the civilian regime is worked out as soon as possible; otherwise, you’re just engaging in a lost battle now that they have walked out.

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“It is Nigeria who will largely lose because we need them at the regional – Africa level and the international level to support Nigeria in its leadership position.

“Nigeria is looking forward to being a member in the Security Council; you need countries to support you”, Rafisanjani had said.

Niger’s Official Defence Pact With Mali And Burkina Faso

Following threats by ECOWAS to invade Niger over military coup in the country, it signed an official defence pact with Mali and Burkina Faso leaders on Thursday 24th August 2023, ‘allowing the defence and security forces of Burkina Faso and Mali to operate on the territory of Niger in the event of aggression.’

The signing followed a meeting between Niger’s new President, General Abdurahman Tchiani, and the foreign ministers of Mali and Burkina Faso which took place in Niger’s capital, Niamey.

The announcement of the pact, was clearly a response to the then ECOWAS summit in Ghana, at which it was announced that a coalition of the forces of ECOWAS members stood in readiness to intervene militarily in Niger ‘anytime the order is given’.

ECOWAS had added that: “We are ready to go anytime the order is given. The D-Day is also decided”.

But Niger’s de facto new President, General Abdurahman Tchiani, responded by warning the ECOWAS Generals that: “If an attack were to be undertaken against us, it will not be the walk in the park some people seem to think”.

Comrade James Ezema is a veteran journalist and media consultant. He is a political strategist. He can be reached on +2348035823617 via call or WhatsApp.

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