Editorial

February 29, 2024

ECOWAS’s furtive back-track

ECOWAS’s furtive back-track

THE Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, recently swallowed its pride and reversed its sanctions against member-states now under military juntas. Currently, five ECOWAS countries, all French-speaking, are under military rule. They are Guinea, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad.

They form an unbroken arc across the Sahel. Mauritania, one of the few countries in the world that still actively condones the evil of slavery, withdrew its membership in 2000, opting for “associate” status. It has dawned on the Nigerian President, Bola Tinubu-led ECOWAS, that with the notice of withdrawal from the body of these suspended sister countries, the sub-region has a whole lot more to lose.

To save face, ECOWAS, through its mouthpiece, Omar Touray, claimed it was dropping the sanctions on “humanitarian” grounds. The sanctions targeted particularly against Niger Republic included border closures, flight restrictions, freezing of central bank assets and suspension of commercial transactions. All these countries, except Guinea, are landlocked and depend upon other ECOWAS countries for access to the sea for their international trade.

The humanitarian claim was partly valid. Niger had experienced sporadic hardship protests among its people. However, what hastened ECOWAS toward compromise was the threat by Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger to quit ECOWAS and form a confederation. They had already turned to a willing new friend, Morocco, for access to the sea, and had gone far in domestic economic reforms tailored at weakening France’s suffocating neo-colonial hold.

Despite over 60 years of flag independence, France continues to tie its former West African colonies to its apron string, exploiting their natural resources for peanuts and using its military to manipulate their political affairs. France also plays a leading role in maintaining the corrupt and clueless political elites of these countries in power and manipulating Islamic terror groups in the Sahel to its selfish advantage.

The friction between ECOWAS and the military-led states is capable of worsening insecurity in the region. It has undermined the Multinational Joint Task Force, MNJTF, mechanism which helped in curtailing Boko Haram and ISWAP Islamic terrorism in North-East Nigeria and Northern Cameroon. Free movement of ECOWAS citizens was hampered, and it disrupted socio-economic activities.

We commend the ECOWAS leadership for making this necessary sacrifice, and urge it to follow through to ensure full normalisation of ties. Let all sides learn their lessons from the events of the past seven months and put the interests of member-states first. The ECOWAS zone must sever their umbilical connections to their former colonial masters and world powers, and fully assert their independence.

ECOWAS should emulate the European Union, EU, in building a strong regional economic bloc. Had they gone to a needless war with Niger Republic to reinstall the discredited Mohamed Bazoum regime, the entire region could have been destabilised.