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The juntas take on the civilian presidents

The Sahelian military leaders launched  their summit in Niamey, a day before the Ecowas block held its own summit in neighbouring Nigeria

The fragility of the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas) was evident at a leaders’ summit in Niamey where the Alliance des États du Sahel (AES) – the military regimes in Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger – held their own parallel summit on the margins.

The three junta states announced their plans to formally leave Ecowas and set up their own bloc in January (AC Vol 65 No 5, Ecowas buckles as it goes for regional unity).

President of Ecowas Omar Alieu Touray warned leaders that the breakaway AES risked the ‘disintegration’ of the bloc and would lead to major economic and security costs.

‘Considering these benefits, it is evident that disintegration will not only disrupt the freedom of movement and settlement of people, but it will also worsen insecurity in the region,’ he said.

Nigeria’s President Bola Tinubu was re-elected to chair Ecowas in Niamey for another year. Senegal’s new President Bassirou Faye, elected in May on an anti-establishment ticket, has been appointed to lead talks with the AES aimed at bringing them back to the fold, as part of what Ecowas leaders described as ‘more vigorous’ reconciliation efforts.

Faye will have his work cut out. Niger’s military leader, General Abdourahamane Tiani, told the AES summit that ‘our people have irrevocably turned their backs on Ecowas.’

Criticising Ecowas for being influenced by the United States and Europe, he called for the establishment of a ‘community far removed from the stranglehold of foreign powers’. No formal mention was made of the juntas increasingly close alignment with Moscow.

It is a measure of the Ecowas bloc’s weakness that it appears prepared to hold out the olive branch to the juntas a year after threatening military action to return Niger’s ousted President Mohamed Bazoum to power.

Ecowas continued with economic sanctions on the three regimes, particularly harsh on Niger.

Those sanctions were abandoned in February, suggesting that nothing short of full capitulation will be enough to persuade the juntas to return to the fold (Dispatches 28/2/24, Regional bloc backtracks on economic sanctions).



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