February 24, 2024

ECOWAS lifts sanctions on Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso; restores power supply

ECOWAS lifts sanctions on Guinea, Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso; restores power supply

—Says political, targeted sanctions remain in force
—Highlights possible loses to three exiting countries, citizens

By Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Abuja

The Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, on Saturday, resolved to lift some of the sanctions imposed on Niger, Mali and Guinea, in response to an unconstitutional change of government in the countries.

President of the ECOWAS Commission, Dr Omar Alieu Touray, announced this while presenting the communique issued at the end of an Extraordinary Summit of the Authority of Heads of State and Government of the ECOWAS, but added that political and targeted sanctions are still in force against the countries.

Recall that ECOWAS had imposed a long list of sanctions on the military junta in Niger in July 2023, following the coup d’etat that sacked and the incarceration of the elected President, Mohammed Bazoum. Mali and Burkina Faso had earlier been hit by other ranges of sanctions before the episode in Niger Republic.

The three countries had on January 28, 2024, announced the withdrawal of their membership of the ECOWAS organization, alleging that the regional body had come under foreign influence, had turned it into a threat to member-states.

They had also on the 16th of September, 2023, announced the formation of the Alliance of Sahel States, a counter-regional organization, said to be a mutual defense pact among the countries.

Guinea, another member-state of the ECOWAS organization, which has been under a military rule since September 2021, also experienced a panic incidence on Monday when its Military Ruler, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, dissolved his cabinet and ordered borders shut.

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

Touray said the decision is based on humanitarian considerations especially because of the month of Lent and the approaching month of Ramadan.

In the communique as read by ECOWAS Commission’s President, the Authority demanded the release of former President Mohammad Bazoum.

“The Authority calls for the immediate release of his excellency Mohammed Bazoom, former President of the Republic of Niger.

“The Authority also calls on the transition authorities in Niger to provide an acceptable transition timetable to the constitutional order.”

On sanctions, Touray said the Authority resolved to lift with immediate effect the following measures imposed on the Republic of Niger: “Closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS countries and Niger to be lifted, no Fly Zone of all commercial flights to and from Niger is to be lifted and suspension of all commercial and financial transactions between ECOWAS member states and Niger is to be lifted.”

The Authority, he said, also resolved that the “freezing of all service transactions including utility services is to be lifted.

“Freezing of assets of the Republic of Niger in ECOWAS Central banks is to be lifted.

“Freezing of assets of Niger State and the state enterprises and parastatals in commercial banks is to be lifted.

“Suspension of Niger from all financial assistance and transactions with all financial institutions particularly ECOWAS Bank for Investment and Development (EBID) and BIRD is to be lifted.

“Travel ban on the government officials and their family members is also to be lifted.”

The President of the ECOWAS Commission said: “This decision is based on humanitarian considerations especially as we are in the month of lent and as we prepare for the holy month of Ramadan.

“The Authority has also resolved to lift the sanctions regarding the recruitment of Malian citizens in statutory and professional positions within ECOWAS.

“The Authority has also resolve to lift financial and economic sanctions on the Republic of Guinea.

“The Authority has also instructed the President of the Commission to invite Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Guinea, to attend the technical and consultative meetings of ECOWAS as well as all security related meetings.

“The authority calls on ECOWAS institutions, member states the United Nations Mine Action Office (UNMAO) and other regional institutions to implement this decision.”

On the withdrawal of the three countries, Touray said “the Authority noted the notifications by the three member states within the context of Article 91 of the 1993 ECOWAS revised treaty and urged the countries to reconsider the decision in view of the benefits that the ECOWAS member states and their citizens enjoy in the community.

“The Authority expresses its concern over the socio economic, political, security and humanitarian impact of the decision, particularly on the citizens of the three countries and on the regional integration process.

“The Authority further urges the three member states to resort to dialogue, negotiations and mediation to address their concerns.

“The Authority urges the three member states to adhere to the provisions of the 1993 revised treaty relating to withdrawal particularly article 91.

“The Authority encourages ECOWAS to sustain its rapprochement and overtures towards the three member states and continue to remain seized of the situation.

“The Authority or just ECOWAS to engage African Union, UNMAO, UN and other international organizations in its dialogue with the three countries.

“The Authority encourages a broader outreach, which should include traditional, religious leaders, eminent personalities, civil society and women leaders for the unity and security of the regional.

“The Authority reiterates the urgent need for ECOWAS to expedite the operationalization of the standby force in its kinetic mode to fight against terrorism in the region including the elements of the Multinational Joint Task Force, and the Accra initiative.

“In this regard, the Authority instructs its commission as soon as possible to convene the meeting of ministers of finance and defense to propose modalities for financing and equipping counterterrorism force.

“The Authority further instructs the commission to develop an effective communication strategy in engaging member states and the community citizens in view of the ongoing disinformation and misinformation that put ECOWAS in a bad light.

“The Authority expresses its gratitude to His Excellency General Yakubu Gowon, for his interest in the welfare of the community and his valuable suggestions.

“The Authority takes note of the end of President Mackey Sell’s term of office on April 2, 2024. And commends him for the tremendous development he has realized as President of Senegal, and for his invaluable leadership in Africa and the world.

“The Authority calls on Senegalese stakeholders to give priority to dialogue with a view to preserving the democratic gains of Senagal, through a free, inclusive and transparent elections.

“The leaders underscored their commitment to Africans’ sovereignty, independence and unity. In this regard, the Authority appeals to all partners to respect African countries sovereignty and independence and avoid interferences that risk destabilizing member states and adversely affect regional unity.”

Touray said the Authority commended President Bola Tinubu, and chair of the ECOWAS Authority for convening the extra ordinary summit and for the manner in which he has been conducting the affairs of the community, as chair of authority.”

When asked if the lifting of these sanctions will not suggest ECOWAS as weak and incentivies others with similar tendencies, he said “now, let me make it very clear what I have listed is not exhaustive. Political sanctions have not been lifted. Border closures have been lifted. And commercial sanctions have been lifted. But there are targeted sanctions as well as political sanctions. That remain in force.

“I think our sanctions regime should be assessed correctly. The list I have given relates mainly to Niger because all the other countries still have political sanctions on them.

“So the border closures, the commercial sanctions and all that are on leisure and that is what the leaders have decided to lift. But individual sanctions as well as political sanctions remain in place in Niger.

“Now for other countries, political sanctions remain. That is the limited ability to attend ECOWAS Summit as well as ministerial sessions”, he explained

The Authority also lifted sanctions on Guinea, inviting all four countries to attend technical consultative meetings of ECOWAS going forward.

Highlighting the various implications of the planned withdrawal by the three countries from the community, he noted that besides losing economic, security and development benefits that accrue to members states, there will also be personal loses to nationals of the countries across the region.

According to him, pulling out of the community might result in the halt or the suspension of all ECOWAS projects and programmes worth more than $500 million, various regional projects being executed by the region’s financial institutions, worth about $321.6 million may be halted, while they may be exited from the regional electricity market, known as the West African Power Pool project.

He also said besides the countries losing national benefits within the region, citizens of the countries, about 130 of them, who are employees of the ECOWAS, will lose their job to the exit of their countries from the community, just as seven regional entities with offices in the countries would also need to be shut down.

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