In a response to recent political tumult, officials from the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) gathered in Nigeria’s capital on Thursday to address the exit of Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger from the regional bloc. This meeting, convened to discuss pressing regional issues, comes amidst a brewing crisis in Senegal where President Macky Sall has postponed elections until December.
After an extensive closed-door session, ECOWAS announced its commitment to engage in dialogue with the departing nations but cautioned that their decisions would carry repercussions for the regional body and its citizens. Omar Alieu Touray, ECOWAS commission president, expressed concerns over the prevailing challenges despite collective efforts towards fostering peace and stability.
The withdrawal of Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger, all under military rule, was punctuated by accusations against ECOWAS, citing abandonment of founding ideals and alleged pandering to foreign interests. Additionally, the trio condemned ECOWAS sanctions against military-led governments in the region as inhumane.
Following the withdrawal, Senegal witnessed widespread protests following President Sall’s decision to delay presidential elections. Critics, including political analyst Ahmed Buhari, labeled the move as a constitutional coup, expressing apprehension over interference with democratic processes.
Senegal’s foreign minister, present at Thursday’s meeting, sought to allay concerns regarding the nation’s political situation, reassuring the regional bloc.
ECOWAS, established in 1975 to foster economic prosperity, has grappled with a surge in coups in recent years. Experts attribute this trend to governance deficiencies and advocate for sanctions against Senegal over the election delay. Nigerian Foreign Affairs Minister Yusuf Tuggar affirmed the authorities’ commitment to addressing the crisis, emphasizing the region’s resilience in confronting challenges.
In a related development, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Niger formed the alliance of Sahel States last year, pledging to defend their interests. The response from ECOWAS regarding Senegal’s situation and the potential reintegration of the departing nations remains uncertain, casting a shadow over the bloc’s future actions.