Reconsider Your Exit Plan, We’re Not Your Enemy, ECOWAS Tells Mali, Others

The Authority of Heads of State and Government of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has advised three military-ruled West African nations that recently announced their exit from the community to reconsider their decision.

Chairman of the ECOWAS Authority, Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who gave the admonition on Saturday in his opening address, during an Extraordinary Summit of the ECOWAS Commission on the political, peace and security situation in the region, held at the State House, Abuja, also advised the exiting countries not to see the organization as the enemy.

Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger, three of the nations currently under military rule in the West African region, had on January 28, 2024, announced their withdrawal of their membership of the ECOWAS organization, alleging that the regional body had come under foreign influence, which had turned it into a threat to member states.

The trio had on the 16th of September, 2023, announced the formation of the Alliance of Sahel States, a counter-regional organization, said to be a mutual defence 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 incident on Monday when its military ruler, Colonel Mamady Doumbouya, dissolved his cabinet and ordered border closure.

The three nations had lost their democratically elected governments to coup d’etat, a development rejected by the ECOWAS Authority, leading to the body announcing sanctions against the military juntas in the countries.

However, reading his welcome address on Saturday, President Tinubu emphasized the reason for the entire region to continue to stand together, collaborating on economic integration, democracy, and human rights, with a view to achieving sustainable development across the region.

President Tinubu remarked that the outcome of the meeting would be guided by the memorandum to be presented by the chairman of ECOWAS Commission who would give the leaders an update on the situation in Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali, three countries that recently announced their pull-out from the bloc.

He commended the president of Senegal, Macky Sall, for agreeing to step down at the end of his current tenure in office.

“Furthermore, we will deliberate on the announced withdrawal from ECOWAS by the Republics of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger. In the spirit of collective security and African solidarity, we realize that the stability of these nations is intricately linked to the overall peace and security of West Africa.

“As such, it is pertinent that we engage in constructive deliberations to examine the actions taken by these countries and ensure that the citizens are not denied the benefits derived from our regional integration initiatives. In our ensuing discussions, we must put the plight of people, the ordinary citizens, at the centre of our decisions.

“In a similar vein, the recent decision by the Constitutional Council of Senegal to annul the postponement of the electoral process is a matter that demands our attention. We commend our brother Macky Sall for agreeing to abide by the Court’s decision to organize election as soon as possible and to step down in line with the rule of law. We must all commend his courage and statesmanship as we wish him the very best in his future endeavours.

“Excellencies, Heads of State and Government, Distinguished Guests, let me underscore that these challenges, though daunting, present an opportunity for ECOWAS to reaffirm its commitment to the vision of our founding fathers and the principles underpinning our commitment to peace, security, and regional integration. We must stand united in our resolve to promote economic integration, democracy, and human rights, with a view to fostering sustainable development across all our member states.

“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. 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 re-consider the decision of the three of them to exit their home and not to perceive our organization as the enemy because we are not the enemy”, he said.

Other leaders present at the event were President Macky Sall of Senegal, President Alassane Ouattara of Cote d’Ivoire; President of ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray; President Faure Gnassingbé of Togo: President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana;

Also at the summit were Vice-President of the Gambia, Muhammad Jallow; President Patrice Talon of Benin Republic and President Umaro Embalo Siseco of Guinea Bissau.